I haven’t missed a Fontana race in 5 years, so it really sucked when I realized I wouldn’t be able to go this year. All the action & drama that happened on Sunday made it that much worse, but then again there’s no guarantee that it would have happened had I gone so I’m using that to make me feel better about the whole thing.
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Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 and in the distance I could hear the sound of the saddest trombone sighing “waaah, waaah, waaaaaaah.”
I love that Kid Rock couldn’t be bothered to put his drink down to give the command to start engines.
I didn’t love Mark Martin’s gnarly crash on pit road. That was crazy and scary. So glad it wasn’t worse.
Jeff Gordon got all huffy at Dale Earnhardt Jr. I found that to be cute.
And Greg Biffle won the race! I think that’s cool because Biffle is a nice dude.
“AHHHHHHH!!!! HE WON! HE WON! *jumping up and down* FINALLY!! YAY!! Now everyone can shut up.”
So I didn’t watch the race live on Sunday. I watched it on Tivo on Monday. Figures that the one good race as of late is the one I didn’t get to watch as it happened. Still I got the gist, lots of pit road speeding penalties and Joey Logano put the moves on Mark Martin to get his first “real” win.
I woke up early Sunday morning to clear skies and no rain. When rain is a possibility during a race weekend I’ve taken the stance of not talking about it. At least not in the negative. You don’t know for sure what the weather is going to do, so why stand on negative side of the fence and go on an on about how it’s going to rain and we’re not going to get the race in, blah, blah, blah. I’d just rather not and deal with what’s actually happening.
Where the hell have I been?? It feels like forever ago since I’ve written anything but there’s a totally awesome reason why: I met a guy! Yep, I went on a coffee date and the guy, his name is Jack, turned out to be pretty amazing, so amazing that we spent the next four days together. So, needless to say, I like him A LOT and he likes me A LOT. I wasn’t expecting it and it’s been the best thing ever. However, it’s totally thrown my whole schedule out of whack. I always had a ton of time to myself, pretty much any time I wasn’t working was my time to work on this site or do whatever. But now that I’m with Jack that’s pretty much all I want to do–be with him–so I’ve been prepping the 2012 Hottest NASCAR Driver tournament in bits and pieces, in small chunks of time, over the last few days and now I’m FINALLY ready to launch it.
Congratulations to the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 team for their victory at Texas. Tony Stewart and crew are definitely making things anxious for Carl Edwards. But because I’m greedy, I really wish that Matt Kenseth & Kevin Harvick could get in the mix somehow and stir things up so that everything will be nice and crazy for Homestead. That would be fun, no?
Of course, there was that whole Kyle Busch situation that was covered AT LENGTH over the weekend, so I’m not going to go into it very much only to say that I hated it when they would recount what happened on Friday with Kyle and Ron Hornaday. They made it seem like it wasn’t OBVIOUS that Hornaday got into Kyle on accident, he got loose and it was plain as day. I’m probably nitpicking about this but saying “they tried going 3-wide and it didn’t work” doesn’t quite explain the situation accurately enough for me. Oh and one more thing, did you think it was interesting that in KyBu’s apology letter he didn’t name Kevin Harvick Inc. by name? I thought that was interesting. Douchey and interesting.
What a letdown. The racing was boring and tons of fans couldn’t even get to the track to see the boring race.
Kentucky Speedway apologized today and announced a ticket exchange offer. Meanwhile other tracks have offered up rants and comments about the weekend’s traffic debacle giving Kentucky Speedway crap for not figuring out how to deal with the traffic issue ahead of time. Just check out what Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis wrote today.
Here’s the statement NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France released yesterday:
“While NASCAR was thrilled by the incredible response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Kentucky, we also are extremely disappointed by the traffic problems and inconveniences endured by fans who wanted to be part of our races at Kentucky Speedway. NASCAR will be in close communications with Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. to see that they work to resolve the issues. This situation cannot happen again.”
And now Indianapolis Motor Speedway has created a special offer for fans that had tickets to Kentucky’s inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
Fans who present a ticket from the Kentucky Sprint Cup race at the IMS gate will receive one free admission to Brickyard 400 practice Friday, July 29 or will be admitted to Brickyard 400 qualifying Saturday, July 30 for just $5.
Fans holding tickets from the July 9 race at Kentucky also can park for free Friday and Saturday at IMS Lots 1, 2 and 3, conveniently located on the south, west and north sides of the iconic facility. The regular price is $10 per day to park in those lots.
“As an urban track, we offer a fan experience inside a vibrant city that provides restaurants, nightlife, cultural activities and top-rated hotels in addition to the history and tradition of 100 years of racing at Indianapolis,” said Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and CEO. “We have easy, efficient access to and from the track that allows our fans to participate in activities at the track and, in just a matter of minutes, enjoy all that the city of Indianapolis has to offer or be well on the road toward home or the hotel.”
When I arrived at Infineon Raceway on Friday I was late. It was only 9am but it was late. The garage opened at 7am and that’s when people showed up, so the media lot was full when I arrived. I was stuck in lot 1 which is next to the helipad. It’s not a big deal (there’s an awesome shuttle that takes you right to the media center no matter where you’re parked) but it’s funny to me how 9am can be considered late for anything. Anyway, Friday was the day of press conferences for the top-12 drivers.
There were three races yesterday. The Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.
As much as I would LOVE to visit Monaco, I’m not going to pretend that I give a flying fig about Formula 1 racing. It’s interesting I’m sure, but I’ve found that men that follow it are particularly annoying to talk to about any other kind of racing and that has turned me off to it entirely. Yes, I’m basing my opinion of Formula 1 racing off of random encounters with douchebags, and I’m totally OK with that. I’m sure there a lot of really nice Formula 1 fans out there, so please don’t leave me any annoying comments. Anyway, I’ve watched some F1 races and it doesn’t really do much for me. (“Random Encounters with Douchebags” would make a great book and/or movie title, right? Story of my life)
On the other hand I do hope that Kimi Raikkonen will try his hand at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at Infineon Raceway next month. Why? Because I’ll be there and new blood is always cool.
So on to the Coca-Cola 600. I’m happy for Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team for winning the race. I just wish it could have been Dale Earnhardt Jr. instead.
I thought they would have thrown a caution on that last crash, and I find it curious that they didn’t. NASCAR really isn’t helping themselves or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in being inconsistent in their use of the yellow flag. It seems weird to me that there wouldn’t have been any debris on the track after all the contact that happened.
Whatever, we move on to the next race!
They should use Trevor’s story for an episode of “House.” They still don’t know what the illness is/was.
On Saturday morning in Las Vegas the first and only thing I scheduled to do that day was interview Jennifer Jo Cobb. She was great and it was awesome to find out that her favorite word is “Fabulous.” Smart lady!
Friday morning in Las Vegas started with me arriving at the track just in time to interview J.J. Yeley at his hauler. But I found out that he had been asked to drive the No. 27 car for Baker Curb Racing in the Nationwide Series race. So he was participating in their practice session and wouldn’t be available till later in the day (We did end up connecting later in the day and I got some great answers from him).
I’m sad I missed the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour in Charlotte this week. But, if I’m being honest, it’s only because I just read this article about all the swag the media received, that I missed out on. There were cupcakes and cookies and wine!
Anyway, here are photos from the week. It’s one of my favorite things to post photos of the teams wearing those annoying long sleeve shirts. I don’t know why I hate them so much but they just look wrong. I say this every year and no one listens to me.
It’s just like bridesmaid dresses: it’s really hard to pick on dress type that works on every body type. Which is why brides have started letting their maids pick a fit that suits them individually and then just going with the same color and/or print for the group. I think NASCAR teams should adopt this same principle. Some teams have, but definitely not the majority.
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Elliott Sadler, (second from left) speaks with the media, as drivers (left to right) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jason Leffler, and Aric Almirola look on, during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hilton University on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Michael Waltrip’s familiar No. 15 NAPA car is on display during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hilton University on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C. (Credit: Harold Hinson/HHP)
(Left to right) Bobby Hutchens, director of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing; Tony Gibson, crew chief of the No. 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car; Ryan Newman, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver; Tony Stewart, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner and driver; and Darian Grubb, crew chief of the No. 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, pose for a picture during the 2011 Sprint Cup Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday at Stewart-Haas Racing in Kannapolis, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Regan Smith stands in front of his No. 78 Furniture Row ride during the Sprint Media Tour hosted byCharlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(center) NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty stands between his two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers AJ Allmendinger (left) and the newest addition to Richard Petty Motorsports Marcos Ambrose during the Sprint Media Tour hosted byCharlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Team owner Jack Roush (center) poses with drivers (left to right) Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and David Ragan, during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at the Roush-Fenway hanger of Concord Regional Airport, on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Left to right) Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, speaks with Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hilton University on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Left to right) Richard Childress, team owner; Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 Cheerios Chevrolet; Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet; Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 22 Caterpillar Chevrolet, and Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Menard’s Chevrolet, pose for the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Richard Childress Racing on Tuesday in Welcome, N.C.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Left to right) Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, owner Rick Hendrick and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pose for a team picture Wednesday at Hendrick Motorsports Media Day during the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Left to right) Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, speaks to the media as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teammates Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, and Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, look on during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Penske Racing on Monday in Mooresville, N.C.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Team owner Joe Gibbs (third from right) poses with J.D. Gibbs (third from left), Joe Gibbs Racing President, Joey Logano (left), driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, Kyle Busch (second from left), driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota, Denny Hamlin (second from right), driver of the No. FedEx Toyota, and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott (right), during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Joe Gibbs Racing, on Thursday in Huntersville, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, on hiring Tony Stewart: “For 1997, we wanted to form a second team. We asked all the guys to write down the name of the driver they wanted the most and put it in a hat. There was one name on every piece of paper. That was Tony Stewart.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs (center) speaks about the 20th anniversary of Joe Gibbs Racing, as (left to right) JGR President J.D. Gibbs, former JGR drivers Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, JGR senior vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar and Interstate Batteries CEO Norm Miller look on during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Joe Gibbs Racing, on Thursday in Huntersville, N.C. (Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The No. 21 Motorcraft Ford proudly displays the new American Ethanol sponsorship around the fuel hole during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at the Roush-Fenway hanger of Concord Regional Airport, on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Credit: Harold Hinson/HHP)
(Left to right) Juan Pablo Montoya, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates and Jamie McMurray, defending Daytona 500 champion, pose for a picture during the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing stop on the 2011 Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday at the Hilton Charlotte University Place in Charlotte, N.C.(Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
It’s time for Round Two! But first let’s find out what happened in Round One.
Kyle Busch (68%) defeated Jeff Burton (32%)
Juan Pablo Montoya (62%) defeated Brian Vickers (38%)
Tony Stewart (97%) defeated David Reutimann (3%)
Paul Menard (71%) defeated Jimmie Johnson (29%)
Casey Mears (73%) defeated David Ragan (27%)
Regan Smith (86%) defeated Kevin Conway (14%)
This updates the brackets, which you can see below (click it to see it larger).
And now, I think this is when things are going to get even MORE interesting. Round Two is the largest group, it’ll be fun to see who makes it into Round Three. I was going to let Round Two last for two weeks but I have decided to run it for just a week. Votes poured in for Round One and I can only expect it to get crazier for this one, so I’m trying to contain it. Plus I’m highly impatient and two weeks sound like forever to find out the results.
So let’s get to it! Here are the match-ups for Round Two! You can vote as many times as you want each day until voting ends on Saturday, January 15th.
UPDATE: Round Two voting has ended. Stay tuned for the results and Round Three!
|Jamie McMurray||Kyle Busch|
|David Gilliland||Joey Logano|
|Clint Bowyer||Bobby Labonte|
|Kurt Busch||Travis Kvapil|
|Ryan Newman||Juan Pablo Montoya|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Scott Speed|
|Sam Hornish Jr.||Tony Stewart|
|Carl Edwards||Kasey Kahne|
|Kevin Harvick||Casey Mears|
|Elliott Sadler||Reed Sorenson|
|Greg Biffle||Martin Truex Jr.|
|Jeff Gordon||Marcos Ambrose|
|Brad Keselowski||Paul Menard|
|AJ Allmendinger||Matt Kenseth|
|Robby Gordon||Regan Smith|
|Mark Martin||Denny Hamlin|
UPDATE: Round Two voting has ended. Stay tuned for the results and Round Three!
Last week was pretty hectic for me, hence the lack of posts. Between making the turkey (using a brine is the only way to go) for Thanksgiving and then helping my mom get married on Saturday I’ve been a busy little bee!
So I haven’t had much time to think about all of the ramifications of the changes that were announced at Hendrick Motorsports last week.
But my reaction went something like this:
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to use that animation of Pee Wee! Cracks me up every time I see it and in this case it totally sums up my feelings when I heard the news. On one hand I was thinking it might be better for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to get Alan Gustafson, but I trust that Rick Hendrick knows what he’s doing. I love all of the new pairings and I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes of it. The teams of the 88 and 24 can definitely use the new energy, so I’m excited.
No. 5 Chevrolet
Driver: Mark Martin
Crew Chief: Lance McGrew
No. 24 Chevrolet
Driver: Jeff Gordon
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
No. 48 Chevrolet (duh, if it ain’t broke why fix it?)
Driver: Jimmie Johnson
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
No. 88 Chevrolet
Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte
The Coke Zero 400 was fun? I guess that’s the right word to describe a night that was full of crashy-crashes that seemed to take out, like, the entire field of cars. Only 17 out of 43 cars completed all 166 laps of the race. And that’s why Daytona will always be one of my absolute favorite tracks.
Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the #29 crew for pulling out the win. I’m happy for them but I was actually hoping Clint Bowyer would be the Richard Childress Racing driver to run away with it. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be for Clint just yet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 4th which catapulted him into the top-12 in the points standings. Now all he needs to do is just STAY THERE. Seriously, please, just stay RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE.
I’d like to remind you guys that my Wiley X sunglasses contest is still going on, you’ve got until July 9th to submit your entry! The prize is worth $150! I think this is the most expensive thing I’ve ever given away on this site.
Photo fun time after the jump!!
I think Drew Blickensderfer really wants to win my 2010 Hottest Crew Chief Award. What do you think?
Drew Blickensderfer waits for practice to begin for the Nationwide Series Subway Jalapeno 250 powered by Coca-Cola race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL. (photo: ZumaPress)
This is just a great photo.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the Budweiser Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Sam Hornish Jr. (R), driver of the Mobil 1 Dodge, kisses his daughter Addison after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Darius Rucker performs on stage during the concert held prior to the the Coke Zero 400 race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series held in the Daytona International circuit in Florida, USA on 03 July 2010.
Juan Pablo Montoya kisses his daughter while waiting for the start of qualifying for the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida on July 2, 2010. (UPI Photo/Martin Fried Photo via Newscom)
Carl Edwards, driver of the SUBWAY Ford, holds an umbrella on the grid as as rain cancels qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart prepares for the Coke Zero 400 race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL.
Professional tennis player John Isner sits on the pit box of Matt Kenseth, driver of the Jeremiah Weed Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Members of Jimmie Johnson’s team rush Mark Martin to safety after a turn 4 wreck during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida on July 3, 2010. (UPI Photo/Martin Fried Photo via Newscom)
Kevin Harvick driver of the Shell/Penzoil Chevrolet celebrates with his wife Delana (L) his victory in the Coke Zero 400 held in the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, USA on 03 July 2010.
You can’t say I never gave you guys anything. I could of kept these for myself, but instead I’m passing them along to one lucky reader. You’ll have your very own pair of Wiley X sunglasses from their Skyee line, the same brand that NASCAR drivers like Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards wear.
The sunglasses come with their own zippered case, something called a “leash cord” and a lens cloth. Oh, and there’s a Wiley X sticker in the box too.
Enter now! The contest ends at midnight on Friday, July 9th, 2010.
UPDATE: The contest is now over!
I know I’ve used that title before but I love it.
Friday at Infineon Raceway was day one of the Toyota/SaveMart 350 festivities. It was a pretty big day for me because it held actual things for me to do. My usual shtick is to just show up and let things happen but this time I setup interviews with drivers. Since things went so well with Tony Stewart and the Inside The Actor’s Studio questions I decided to make it my “thing” for now and to get as many drivers to answer the same questions.
On my schedule for the day were one-on-one’s with David Reutimann, Regan Smith, AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler. I’ll write about each of those experiences in separate posts. Stay tuned for those.
Back in the media center I sat in on press conferences for Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and a little bit of Denny Hamlin.
Tony Stewart’s presser was, of course, by far the most entertaining of the bunch. His session was after practice and he wasn’t very happy with his car. I think that Southwest airlines should use his press conferences as the basis for one of their “Wanna Get Away???” commercials. I had this uncontrollable urge, every time someone asked something cringe-worthy to look down and start playing with my cell phone. There are always a few questions that bug Tony and after sitting in on a few of his pressers I’ve learned that Tony is a lot better when you ask him questions that are very real to him. He laid it out pretty plainly that he only cares about racing. He wasn’t in the mood to get all theoretical or philosophical about racing after having a crappy practice session. It wasn’t helping that people were asking the same questions they’ve asked year after year, my favorite being “Should there be a road course race in The Chase?” That was the one that really bugged him and got him to eventually say that he had no interest in giving his opinion on such things, he just wanted to race.
43 different drivers started the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby American in Las Vegas, but for some reason the same guy that won the race the weekend before won again.
How is this possible? What are the 42 other drivers, and their teams, doing?? I mean, really? This cannot keep happening. It’s not like it’s 5 dudes out there running around. There are FORTY-THREE cars!! Nobody should be winning anything in a row!
Grrr… Step it up please! Frankly, I was very sad that Jeff Gordon couldn’t get the win over Jimmie Johnson. Not because I wanted Jimmie to lose, so much as I just wanted Jeff to win.
Anyway, I have to talk about Amy of Amy’s Bad Groove. She got the chance to interview Tony Stewart, her favorite driver, in person over the Las Vegas race weekend. I am sooooo excited that she got the opportunity, and I cannot WAIT to read her interview with Tony. I have to put you guys on notice that she’s working on it so you should subscribe to her RSS feed so you can get it as soon as she posts it. I’m sure it’ll be awesome. This would be equivalent to me getting the chance to interview Dale Earnhardt Jr. one-on-one, so the fact that she didn’t pass out or forget all of her questions (which could totally happen if I was confronted with Dale Jr.) is awesome. Congrats Amy!
Fans watch Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series practice action from above in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Neon Garage. (Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
This week was the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. I wasn’t there (trust me, I’m crying inside) and so all I have to share with you are these photos of drivers sitting in chairs. Enjoy!
(Left to right) Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, owner Richard Childress and Jeff Burton take part in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Tuesday in Concord, N.C. (Credit: Harold Hinson Photography)
This entire post is dedicated to the photo below of me with Carl Edwards. It is quite possibly the greatest photo ever taken in the history of photography. I’m probably a wee bit biased but it was seriously THE highlight of my trip to Vegas for Champion’s Week and it happened on my first night in town.
I arrived on Wednesday in the afternoon which meant that I missed the charity roast of Jimmie Johnson that took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I got a cab from the airport and went straight over to the Wynn to pick up my media credentials and then over to Harrah’s to check-in.
Thursday, December 3rd was a big day full of events. However, my first event of the day had nothing to do with NASCAR but everything to do with moving from my $40 room at Harrah’s to my awesome not that much more expensive room at the Mirage. I loved my room at the Mirage so much that I took pictures of it. Which, I think, is saying something. For one, it had an iPod docking station & player so I could listen to my playlists while I got ready. The overall room design was modern & contemporary cool, complete with large flat screen TV with HD channels.
Anyway, after I got all checked in at the Mirage and waded through all of the authentic cowboys in town for the 2009 Wrangler National Rodeo Finals, I made my way over to the Venetian across the street for the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Ceremony.
Before the ceremony the top-12 drivers were available in an adjacent ballroom for Q&A sessions with media. I only had one question that I had any interest in asking any of the drivers and that was “Do you have any big plans for the off-season?”
Everyone was already engaged with media from various outlets: print, online, and TV. So I did a quick lap around taking pictures, and then chatted with ESPN PR.
Instead of starting from the beginning, I’m going to start with the end and work my way backwards.
Friday was of course the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony at the Wynn in Las Vegas. I woke up that morning with a slight hangover from the previous night’s festivities. I spent the majority of the morning willing myself to feel normal and to not vomit even though vomiting probably would have made me feel better, but whatever. I went down to Carnegie Deli and got their chicken soup, which helped tremendously.
That morning I had to go over to the Wynn (I stayed at the Mirage Thursday and Friday, and Harrah’s on Wednesday) to pick up my ticket to the banquet. Passing through the lobby I caught sight of Ron Malec, car chief of the no. 48 Lowe’s team, taking pictures with his girlfriend.
Along with the ticket to the event that told me my table number for the night, I also got to pick up the wristband to get me into the after party and a mini replica of the Sprint Cup Championship trophy. It’s as cute and cool as you’d expect, and it also doubles as a paper weight.
– First, some housekeeping. I’ve added a photo gallery to the site that contains all of the photos I’ve taken from my race weekend adventures. Definitely take a moment and check ‘em out. There are a lot of great photos in there that I’ve never featured on the site. If you’re a Kasey Kahne they’re especially good because there are a couple where he’s looking right at the camera so you can pretend he’s looking at you.
– There are 3 days left in the Tweet2Vegas sweepstakes which will send you and a friend to Las Vegas during the NASCAR Champion’s Week from December 2 through December 5th. You’ll get to attend After the Lap presented by Tissot, a Q&A session with the top 12 Sprint Cup Series drivers after they’ve taken their lap down Las Vegas’ famous Strip. Just follow NASCAR on Twitter for details.
– Here are some things to do this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. I wish I was there:
CHEVY RIDE AND DRIVE AT PHOENIX!
When you go to a NASCAR race you get to watch some great driving on the track… but Chevrolet thinks consumers should get to feel the need for speed too! On Friday-Saturday, November 13 & 14 during the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, fans will have a rare opportunity to actually get behind the wheel of the coveted new Camaro for a test drive. Plus, all participants get a cool Camaro t-shirt!
The free Chevy Ride and Drive is a great way to experience and test drive brand new Chevrolet products right there at the Speedway. Participants will first get to enjoy some action behind the wheel of the 2010 Chevy Equinox, Malibu, Silverado or Traverse, and then take a spin in the all- new 2010 Chevy Camaro!
A sleek, fun, and efficient sports car for the 21st century, the 2010 Camaro combines great looks and performance, along with advanced technology and surprising efficiency.
The Chevy Ride and Drive is located near the Chevy Racing Display in the midway at Phoenix International Raceway and is open to the public on Friday, Nov. 13 from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, and on Saturday, Nov 14 from 8:00 am – Noon. Fans can pre-register and skip the lines! See www.teamchevytestdrive.com for all the information!
CHEVY RACING DISPLAY AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY!
There is also an interactive Chevy Racing Display where you can check out all the latest Chevrolet cars and trucks along, with actual race cars, and pick up a complimentary gift.
The Chevy Racing Display is located in the Midway, and is open to the public on Friday, Nov. 13 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 14 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 15 from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Both the Chevy Racing Display and the Chevy Ride and Drive feature the same vehicles that are offered in the Chevrolet dealerships owned by NASCAR star drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and others including Malibu Sedan LTZ, Camaro 2SS, Traverse FWD LTZ, Traverse LT, Equninox, Tahoe 2wd LTZ, Suburban 1500 2wd LTZ, Silverado 1500 2wd Crew Cab LTZ!
– I have to give huge, huge props to Starbucks for sponsoring the No. 1 team this weekend at Phoenix. I have been saying for sometime now that Starbucks should sponsor a NASCAR team (and me!) and I think this will be really good for them. They’re promoting their new instant coffee product, Via. A NASCAR race is the perfect place for that, somewhere where you want a great cup of coffee in a pinch.
– On the same topic I have to give a huge middle finger to the jackass at the Seattle Weekly who has absolutely no clue what he’s talking about. Ya know, you could easily spend your entire life defending and explaining NASCAR to idiots but what’s the point? He clearly hasn’t been to a race ever. If he’d ever been to a NASCAR race he’d know that there is diversity, not just in ethnicities represented, but also in tax brackets. I’m so tired of people leaning on tired stereotypes. Get over yourself.
Before the start of the Dickies 500 on Sunday I was thinking about what had to happen in order for Jimmie Johnson to lose some momentum in The Chase. Of course, I didn’t think any of it would happen. So when Jimmie’s accident occurred I was, uhm, sort of pleasantly surprised.
We needed that to make things a little more interesting. The guy still has a ton of points on Mark Martin but at least it gives hope a chance to shine. And, if I’m being honest, it was pretty cool getting to see the 48 team pull together and get that car back into shape to run in the race again. I’m never against seeing Ron Malec in action. (hehe) I have to give it Chad Knaus though, that guy is one cool customer. He was pissed of course that they ran into trouble, but his voice is always even. He doesn’t freak out, and you can’t afford to freak out in a situation like that, which is why Jimmie and the Lowe’s team are 3-time Sprint Cup Champions.
Watching Kurt Busch do his victory lap around Texas Motor Speedway in reverse with his tongue sticking out made me realize who he reminds me of, and no, it’s not Michael Jordan. No, I was thinking more along the lines of the character Pete Campbell from the awesome TV show Mad Men. Pete, played by Vincent Kartheiser, is kind of a punk. He whines when he doesn’t get his way and always thinks he should be treated better than he perceives he’s being treated. It’s funny. Watch Mad Men, it’s awesome. The latest season is over, but that’s what Netflix is for.
That being said it was cool to see Kurt so excited about winning and all that.
Uhm… There’s this one driver, I think his name is Dale Earnhardt Jr. or something, who doesn’t seem to be able to catch a break this season. I’m at the point, well I’ve been here for some time now, where I want to just say to him “Dale, (yes, in this scenario I know him and we’re BFFs) I think you should just park it and call it a season, this is lame. I know you’re doing your best but you need to tell whatever gods are in charge of luck to kiss your butt.”
He was running really well and then of course something happens and finishes crappy. And his finish has nothing to do with his overall performance. They were kicking butt and then it falls off. Ugh.
And now ladies and gentlemen, a photo bonanza!
It is my duty as a sports blogger to have an opinion on everything and to make bold predictions. Normally I’m against this, everything doesn’t need to be said, but I thought it could be fun to make predictions about the outcome of The Chase, predictions that even I don’t take that seriously. Enjoy!
(in the order of the current points standings)
|1.) Mark Martin – I have believe that Mark Martin will win the Championship, unless something happens that makes it so that he doesn’t.|
|2.) Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie will definitely not win the Championship for a 4th straight year, because that would just be greedy and show-offy.|
|3.) Denny Hamlin – Denny will continue to be my sentimental fave for the year, and also my favorite Cribs episode featuring a NASCAR driver. Oh! He’ll also continue to get on people’s nerves.|
|4.) Juan Pablo Montoya – JPM will be frustrated.|
|5.) Kurt Busch – Hmm… Kurt will be all “Whatever” and I’ll be all “Whatever” and then he’ll be all, “Yeah, whatever.” He’s also writing for the Chicago Tribune’s Players Only blog on a weekly basis for the remainder of the season.|
|6.) Tony Stewart – Tony will get close to the Championship but won’t be able to seal the deal. He’ll continue to “mentor” young female drivers.|
|7.) Ryan Newman – He’s in the Chase? Oh, right, right. Ryan will win at least one race before the year is over.|
|8.) Brian Vickers – Bri Bri will be a threat for the Championship. He’ll continue to be supercute and will write a diary for Maxim.com. No really, he’s supposed to do that.|
|9.) Greg Biffle – Biffle’s eyes will pierce through you like lasers. They really do. His stare is intense. Yeah, he’s not winning this thing.|
|10.) Jeff Gordon – Jeff will hopefully *fingers crossed* impregnate his wife a second time and make the second cutest kid ever! I’d like to think he’d win the Sprint Cup but that’d mean I’d have to be mean to Mark Martin.|
|11.) Carl Edwards – Oh, Carly. Well, his Frisbee foot will heal just in time for him to not win the Championship. He’ll continue to confound female NASCAR fans everywhere with his supreme polite gorgeousness.|
|12.) Kasey Kahne – Kasey will pick himself up and dust himself off and start all over again tomorrow at Dover. He’ll improve his position. Kasey will also continue to confound me with his ability to be absolutely adorable without even trying. Look at that photo, c’mon!|
ESPN on ABC’s Countdown pre-race show could have been oh, I dunno, about 45 minutes shorter than its scheduled full hour. I am an ESPN fan, truly, but I can’t take the pre-show anymore. The only useful things are the 5 second driver interviews and that’s about it.
There are no features, no special interviews, nothing. Why does it need to be an hour? I don’t wanna see a recap of the last race I saw it already. And if I didn’t see it on TV I caught up on it online. So there’s no need to rehash the whole thing. And please, for the love of God, stop asking Rusty Wallace his opinion on who can win the Championship. I’m sure he’s a very nice man, and obviously he has a lot of NASCAR knowledge but sometimes I don’t know where he’s coming from.
Congratulations to the twelve men that made it into the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup. It’s an interesting little group. I can’t believe the entirety of Stewart-Haas Racing made it in especially since I didn’t think they’d win a single race this year. Brian Vickers proved it really isn’t over til it’s over and made the Chase for the first time. I’m so excited for the No. 83 team.
I think it’s going to be a very fun Chase, at least I hope it is. It better be crazy at New Hampshire next weekend.
If I were to become a NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver I would have Alan Gustafson as my crew chief and Ron Malec as my car chief. Why? Because they’re both smokin’ hot!
Seriously, I’m awarding them both with the first ever I-totally-just-made-this-up-on-the-fly Fast and the Fabulous hottie crew & car chief awards for 2009. In case you’re not in the know, Alan is the crew chief for the No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet driven by Mark Martin and Ron is the car chief for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson.
I mean, hellooo, just look at them. I’ve had the great opportunity to see both of these gentlemen in person. A race weekend is simply not complete without one of my obligatory Ron Malec photos, and seeing Gustafson in street clothes is mind blowing.
Congratulations to Alan and Ron! I’m sure Hendrick Motorsports, extremely honored that two of their employees were selected for this illustrious honor, will frame this post and and hang it in their lunchroom. hehe
(Photo Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)
(Photo Courtesy NASCAR/Getty Images)
Ron Malec (left)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by The Fast and the Fabulous)
Since I never wrote up my thoughts on the Coke Zero 400 last week I’m doing a double-double this weekend and including them with my write up of last night’s LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland.
First the Coke Zero 400, I felt that Tony Stewart did nothing wrong to Kyle Busch in the last lap. Apparently when Kyle ends up wrecked it’s whiney time, but when he does it to someone else he’s just racing. Whatever, dude. I do not understand Kyle’s logic, seriously.
With Tony’s win, Burger King definitely got their money’s worth for their sponsorship of his No. 14 right out of the gate. If they don’t do more next year, I think that would be a mistake. But I still think the BK King is creepy.
Now, I should say that I wasn’t all that thrilled that Tony won. I really wanted Denny Hamlin to win, and this weekend too. I’ve never been a Denny fan but he’s really growing on me. I’m not sure why. Well, maybe it had to do with seeing his episode of Cribs on CMT awhile back. He had this piece of paper in his bathroom that read: “I Can, I Will.” I guess it struck a cord with me that he even thought enough to post an affirmation like that, and then to let it be filmed. So I want the guy to win something, that and I want to hang out on the little beach he has in his backyard. It just seemed so relaxing.
Here’s a little known fact about me. I get seriously nervous driving to the racetrack on the first day of a NASCAR race weekend. I mean, I get butterflies and super anxious. I’ve learned that this is a good thing, because if I wasn’t worried about it then it means it’s no big deal and it doesn’t mean anything to me. If I’m nervous about it I’m doing something right.
So that was me on Friday morning driving the super short 30 minutes to Infineon Raceway from my new home in Sonoma County. I moved to the city of Cotati just to be closer to my day job and cut down on my commute expenses but in the process I received the huge bonus of saving my sanity by not having to sit in excruciating traffic leaving the track each day. It’s a beautiful thing.
When I arrived at the track I picked up my credentials and then headed straight to the media center to grab the necessary schedules. I had to park up top next to the helipad and I made the wrong decision to just walk down the hills to the garage instead of waiting for the shuttle. Luckily for me this super nice man offered me a ride in his golf cart. It was great to not have to walk the whole way, but that ride down the hill in a super open vehicle was frightening. The entire time I was mentally and physically bracing myself for the possibility of being catapulted out of it at any moment. Super fun.
For the last few weeks I’ve been watching the races with the DirecTV HotPass driver channels. As I’ve said before it’s an awesome feature and I like it a lot. I’d love it if I could mute the commentary and just listen to in-car audio and vice versa, but whatever.
I’ve been meaning to talk about the gloves Dale Earnhardt Jr. wears while driving the No. 88. They’re black with a skeleton print. Every time I see them I think of the Cobra Kai gang from “The Karate Kid” movie. I am a child of the 80′s after all. Of course I rooted for Daniel-san to kick the butt of the evil jerks from the rival dojo but I couldn’t help but think that the leader of the Cobra Kai, Johnny, was super hot. Girls always like the bad guy, what can I say? Hehe. I’d also like to note that the actor who played Johnny is still a hottie to this very day (look up William Zabka).
Anyway, now you know the thoughts that run through my mind when I see Dale’s gloves. I have no idea where his inspiration for said gloves came from but I really dig ‘em. hehe. I wonder if Dale could get Mr. Miyagi to work with him this year.
Congratulations to Mark Martin for winning the Life Lock 400 at Michigan International Speedway! He and his team did an excellent job of being in the exactly the right place at exactly the right time. It’s all about being there at the end to take advantage of any and all opportunities that might come your way.
I don’t understand why TNT cut their coverage short when they had like 20 more minutes left to broadcast. Post-race interviews are always my favorite. Jimmie Johnson seemed a little ticked after the race. That was cool. I would pay money to see Jimmie fight with someone. Not physically but just have a really heated argument. It’d be fun. He’s always so relaxed and cool. Seeing him highly irritated would be refreshing.
Photos after the jump!!
Why is it that every time I see the Cheez-It logo I want some, like, immediately? That doesn’t happen with any other snack food.
Hats off to Mark Martin and the No. 5 Cheez-It/CARQUEST Chevrolet team for winning the Southern 500 presented by GoDaddy.com. They did a great job racking up their second win for the season. Hopefully they won’t fall off the edge of the earth and never win again. I don’t know why I just said that, that was kinda mean. I want Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win! Grrrrr! When is he going to win?! Gaaaah! The waiting is killing me. It almost feels like Ella Gordon is going to win a race before Dale does. Sheesh. Before everybody gets mad at me I say that with love.
In other news… One of my long held wishes has finally come true. I recently moved to Sonoma County here in California. I’m closer to Infineon Raceway now, but that’s not why I made the move. I did it to be closer to work and save money. In the process I finally got to sign up for DirecTV and I couldn’t be happier. I detest Comcast and I’m glad I finally had the option to switch over to DirecTV. Because of this lovely turn of events I get to watch the All-Star Race this weekend on SPEED. I finally have the SPEED channel!!!!
Also, I’m being a good NASCAR fan by supporting a company that supports NASCAR. So it’s a complete win-win situation.
I’m sure Mark Martin would congratulate me if he knew me.
An No. 33 crew member works on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car after the 10th caution at lap 223 sent Clint Bowyer to the garage Saturday in the Southern 500 Presented by GoDaddy.com at Darlington Raceway. Bowyer’s streak of consecutive starts without a DNF ended at 83, one shy of tying Herman Beam’s nearly 50-year-old record. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Cheez-It/CARQUEST Chevrolet, won Saturday’s race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway after starting 12th. (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)
Seeking his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway, Tony Stewart’s No. 14 is worse for wear after getting a trademark Darlington Stripe during practice. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Prettiest wedding dress t-shirt I’ve ever seen!
(Right to left) NASCAR President Mike Helton congratulates Brenda and Danny Barrett on their 15th anniversary on Saturday, where they were married, at Darlington Raceway. The Barretts drive the Official NASCAR Merchandise Trailer. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
How to make me cry at the end of a race:
1.) Be a respected driver and a generally nice guy.
2.) Be the oldest man to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race since 1993.
3.) Climb out of your car and head straight to your crew chief, a man that has idolized you since he was a kid, and thank him for getting you to Victory Lane after 4 winless years.
4.) Look into the television camera and thank your wife for letting you go racing again after you said you’d retire.
5.) Greet all of the drivers and crew members who come over to Victory Lane to congratulate you with a warm smile.
Yes, Mark Martin knows how to make me cry. I wasn’t bawling but I did get weepy. It was a special moment and I am so incredibly happy that I got to see it. Congratulations to the No. 5 Car Quest Kellogg Chevolet team for putting on an awesome show last night.
AJ Allmendinger shares a moment with team owner Richard Petty after the team announced Allmendinger has signed a contract to remain at Richard Petty Motorsports through the end of 2010. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Crew members for Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford celebrate winning the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Subway Fresh Fit 500 Grand Marshall Michael Strahan and Carl Edwards share a laugh in the media center before the race. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
The cacti always look like they’re flipping me off.
Track conditions changed drastically as the sun set and the final portion of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was run under the lights. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Some things you should know:
– Clint Bowyer will appear on the March 24th episode of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” Isn’t it interesting that the guy that is sponsored by Hamburger Helper is guest starring on a non-reality-reality weight-loss game show? I don’t remember HH being billed as the healthiest thing you could make for dinner.
– Carl Edwards was in New York this week to film a commercial for Claritin. During the shoot he was interviewed by Beth Stern (radio host Howard Stern’s wife) for a segment on the celebrity news TV show “Extra.” Is anyone else bored by the fact that Carl and other drivers are so boring when they talk about stuff like doing commercials? It should be fun right? But like really fun, not implied fun. It’s the same line over and over with them, “It’s really kind of fun.” Wow, definitely sounds like it. I guess I believe you? I dunno.
– Infineon Raceway gave $5,000 to the North Vallejo Little League on Thursday. Jerks broke into the league’s concessions and storage building and stole all of the uniforms, equipment and $600 worth of candy last week. The nutjobs also decided to break computers and trophies and ransack the building before leaving. Vallejo, where this burglary occurred, is the hometown of Jeff Gordon. The good news is that so far the league has received more than $13,000 from San Francisco Bay Area companies and organizations like the San Francisco Police Officers Associations and the Oakland A’s. “With these checks we really should be able to get back to business,” said the league’s President Tony Hodges. “I feel grateful. We are in a bankrupt city in a disadvantaged area. I appreciate everything that everyone has done for us to help these disadvantaged kids.”
– Jeff Burton made an appearance on the soap opera “General Hospital” and all I really want to know is if he asked them why no one ever says “Bye” before hanging up the phone. I mean, really, what’s up with that?
– Tony Stewart will be meeting fans and signing autographs as a part of the 5th Annual “Mark Martin Fan Appreciation Days” event in Batesville, Arkansas on Thursday, April 9th from 3 to 5pm CST. For more information go to http://www.markmartinfordmercury.com
– Some news for the IndyCar fans out there: Versus will air more than 130 hours of IndyCar Series coverage throughout the season with a minimum of seven hours each week the network airs a race, the most ever during a race week.
“IndyCar fans have been asking for significantly more coverage of the sport and with our new partnership with VERSUS we have responded to our fans in a way that we think they will love,” said Charlie Morgan, president and chief operating officer for IMS Productions. “With the new VERSUS schedule it will be a weekend of IndyCar programming with Qualifying coverage, expanded race day coverage, and race encores. With so many great drivers, teams and sponsors, the time is right for expanded programming.”
The network will air 12 live IndyCar Series events in 2009 beginning with live coverage of the season-opener from St. Petersburg on April 5. Each of VERSUS’ race telecasts will last a minimum of three hours and will include extended pre-race coverage. VERSUS will also air one-hour preview shows at 6 p.m. ET the day before each race which will feature qualification highlights and all of the relevant IndyCar Series stories of that weekend.
And since I’m on the topic of IndyCar I have this message to send out to all of you: If anyone is interested in paying for me to fly down to Long Beach for the 35th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race drop me an email will ya? I would die for the chance to hang out with Keanu Reeves and Luke Wilson and give them the opportunity to realize that I am their future wife. So really you’d be doing them a favor as well.
For some reason it has been so hard to write this post today. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I want to say about yesterday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen.
I was confused by Tony Eury Jr.’s decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Jr. out on the track long after everyone else had already pitted. And then I was even more confused when I watched NASCAR Now hours after the race ended to find Dale Jr. sitting down giving an interview looking all worn out and sounding all lame and weary. I can’t even wrap my brain around all that right now. All I know is that I hope they get stuff figured out before Michigan.
And as if watching Dale Jr. lose two spots in the points standings and having to suffer through another Kyle Busch win wasn’t enough, there was the big wreck to process.
Here’s how I feel about the big wreck:
1.) I’m glad Bobby Labonte seems to be ok; they took him to a local hospital where he was checked and then released.
2.) In the post-wreck interview David Gilliland had with ESPN’s Marty Smith he made it seem like he felt that it was Michael McDowell’s fault and from what I saw of the video that’s what it looked like to me. McDowell said that he didn’t see Gilliland. So there ya go. This doesn’t do much for McDowell’s reputation. He’s a rookie and hopefully he’ll be able to keep himself out of trouble in the future.
NASCAR is one of those sports where if you make a mistake it has the potential to hurt other people who had nothing to do with it at all, in a way that is so different from any other team sport. For example, if you’re in a relay team and you’re the weakest leg of the team, your team might lose because of you, but at least you didn’t take out 5 other teams in the process. But situations like that — everything that happened at Watkins Glen — are what make NASCAR races so dramatic and interesting to watch.
3.) So in the end the crash, and it’s subsequent red flag clean-up, sucked.
4.) Max Papis sounds a lot like The Count from Sesame Street. He seems like a really nice guy who just wanted to finish the race but I kept waiting for him to say “One! One crash!” I’m just sayin’. Oh and here’s a little trivia, yesterday after the race was over Papis was #6 on Google Trends — a daily list of the hottest search terms.
In other news…
– On the bright side for Gilliland fans, he gained one spot in the points standings. Mostly because Mark Martin wasn’t in yesterday’s race, but hey I’ll take it.
– Congratulations to Marcos “Kangaroo Meat” Ambrose and his first ever NASCAR win in the Nationwide Series on Saturday.
– Mike Wallace and his daughter Chrissy are heading to New York today tomorrow to ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange. I post this because Germain Racing is trying to build a full-time team for Chrissy so that she can run for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next year and they’re looking for sponsors. Check out GermainRacing.com
– Red Bull Racing driver Scott Speed won his fourth ARCA RE/MAX Series race this weekend at Nashville. He leads the points standings by 140 over Matt Carter. I wonder where Speed will be racing next year… hmmm
Marcos Ambros driver of the #59 STP Ford celebrates winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 at the Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2008 in Watkins Glen, NY. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet (L) greets grand marshal and former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett prior to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 at the Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2008 in Watkins Glen, N.Y. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The #43 Cheerios Dodge driven by Bobby LaBonte sits on Pit road after a multi car incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Centurion Boats at the Glen at the Watkins Glen International on August 10, 2008 in Watkins Glen, NY. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Some of my thoughts on the latest NASCAR happenings and whatnot:
– Mark Martin is going over to Hendrick Motorsports next year to take over Casey Mears’ old ride in the No. 5. Now, I like Mark Martin, I really do and I was sad when he wasn’t able to edge out Kevin Harvick for that Daytona 500 win last year. I can’t help but wonder when he’s really going to retire. I mean he was supposed to be gone by now, off spending more time with his family and specifically with his son Matt and his racing aspirations. Now he’s locked in for two more years, hoping to get that Championship that’s eluded him. At a certain point you have to hang it up and live with what you’ve made.
— NFL star Randy Moss bought half of a NASCAR truck team. I could give a flying fig about this piece of news. For one, he’s only been to one NASCAR race in his entire life and it was this weekend at Daytona. So a man who has never been to a race buys a team? I don’t get it. I know that you can love the sport without attending a race in person but it doesn’t feel authentic enough to me, especially when you’re going to invest your hard earned money into it. I never really liked him as a football player, so that’s another reason this news is irrelevant to me. However, NASCAR is a tough business and I hope, if he’s really serious about it, that he’ll be successful.
– What is up with the media asking Kyle Busch every week how he feels about getting booed? Do we really expect his answer to change? They’ve also been asking all of the other drivers how they feel about it and really once they’ve answered that question the first time I really don’t need any follow-up. Even if you’re the most self-confident person in the world it would suck to get booed. It just would. That being said it’s not going to change the way you live your life or how much you want to win.
– The thing that frosts my cookies the most about the coverage of these races is when a commentator will say something like “but he’s so talented, people will see that” in defense of Kyle and as a reason for people to stop booing him. The problem with that is that people don’t boo people based on talent. They boo or cheer for them based on personality. Have you seen a commercial with Kyle in it lately? Exactly. Although I’m sure if he wins the Championship he’ll have them, but his likeability factor is loooooow.
– Just heard Boris Said say on today’s episode of NASCAR Now that he thinks Kyle Busch could break Jeff Gordon’s record of winning 13 races in one season, after all he’s already won 6 this year. Boris, what are you doing??? Don’t put that out there! Eww.
– I often wonder if Jeff Gordon gets tired of answering questions about how he feels about Dale Earnhardt Jr. I mean, after all Jeff has his own issues to worry about right now. To his credit though, Jeff answers those questions without exasperation or irritation. He definitely knows how to handle himself in front of the media. He could probably teach a class on it.
This is just cool.
The helmet Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, wore during Saturday’s race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. He started in third place and finished eighth. (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)
And so begins the television coverage of NASCAR from the fine folks at TNT. I really wish NASCAR could just be on one channel. One. Uno. But what can ya do right?
So TNT excitedly announced their new RaceBuddy feature on NASCAR.com, I didn’t bother to check it out — at least not yet — but the image that kept jumping to mind every time they mentioned it during Sunday’s race was the doll My Buddy from the 80s. I keep singing the theme song to myself “My Buddy, My Buddy, My Buddy, My Buddy and Meeeeeee!” and then I followed it up with “Kid Sister, Kid Sister, Kid Sister, Kid Sister and Meeeeeeee!” Bonus points to you if you remember My Buddy and Kid Sister and triple quadruple points if you actually had one!
Brad Keselowski, how can you not be happy for this guy? He raced his butt off and got his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win ever and I couldn’t be more excited for him and the Navy team. You could see the genuine relief and happiness in his eyes after the race. It was just so cool that his mom and dad were there. Those are my absolutely favorite moments in sports in general. Getting to see the family that has been with these guys from the beginning and getting to see them sharing that moment when they have their first taste of success, that’s pretty awesome. It’s another one of the million reasons why I’m so anxious for the Olympics to start.
Furthermore, didn’t it suck that Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t there to be with his team for their first win? He didn’t even get to see it live on TV. DirecTV had a blackout and so for the last ten laps he had a friend relay the information to him online. Crazy.
Ok, so the Cup race at Pocono. Speaking of Dale Jr. what was up with him during his post race interview? I know that he’s not a super talkative guy after the races in general but that was less that usual. I’m sure it had to do with the heat, and it seems like all of the guys were feeling the affects of it after the race, except for Jimmie Johson who said he was totally fine. Right.
Kasey Kahne won another race and that’s great for him. I’m still miffed about the lack of attention that the Yates Racing guys have received. I want them to get a friggin’ top 5 finish so bad just so the media will have to talk about them for longer than 10 seconds.
In other news…
– Speaking of Yates Racing, both of their drivers will be here in the Bay Area tomorrow for testing at Infineon. I will be there too, taking pictures of whatever I can see. Hopefully something will be going on while I’m there, I won’t be able to stay the whole day.
– David Ragan will be on an episode of “Lawrence of America” on the Travel Channel tomorrow (June 10th) at 11pm EST. Check your local listings. “It was fun filming the show with Lawrence last fall,” said Ragan. “I think he learned a lot and it will be a great way to hopefully introduce the sport to some new fans to the sport. We had a good time at the go-kart track, but next time we’ll go the big track and see how he does.”
– There’s still plenty of time to enter the contest for a free copy of the NASCAR Full Throttle Adrenaline DVD set.
– I don’t know what it is about Brian Vickers but every time I hear him speak I’m surprised by his southern accent. It’s like I forget that he has one every time I see him. It’s cute though, I like accents. There’s no big point to this, I’m just over sharing.
Brian Vickers finished second in the Pocono 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, moving up two spots to 17th in driver standings (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mark Martin qualified third-fastest for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, where he’s finished second six times. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Fellow Ford drivers, Jamie McMurray and David Gilliland, talk about their cars during a break in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler share a laugh in the garage during Friday’s practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
So I was watching the final laps of the Dan Lowry 400 on Saturday pacing around the living room saying “come on Dale, come on Dale, come on Dale” over and over. If you saw me in those moments you would have thought I had obsessive compulsive disorder or something. I was trying to do all of those good visualization exercises they tell you do to, so I kept imagining Dale Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane.
And then he was wrecked.
It was so disgusting and I couldn’t believe it, like I seriously couldn’t believe it was happening. Two years, seventy-one races and it was so close and then gone just like that.
I think I used every curse word in the book, including that one particular word involving someones mother. I said it over and over and over and over again.
I am a rational person and I understand that that’s the way it goes in racing sometimes, but it doesn’t lessen the hurt. That was absolutely heartbreaking and if you saw Dale’s post-race interview you could hear it in his words and see it in his face. It’s one thing to come close and then maybe finish 2nd or 3rd, but he had to finish 15th with a car that should have won.
I don’t want to talk about Kyle Busch. I am so done with him, so done, it’s so over.
And then Denny Hamlin leads the most laps and ends up 24th, that sucks, but uh, what was up with staying out on the track and causing the caution??? He knew he had a tire down and he waited out there until the caution came out to go down pit road. That doesn’t sit well with me; I didn’t like that at all.
On the other hand I wasn’t sad to see Clint Bowyer win the second race of his career. He’s a good guy and I like him. It’s a great win for him and Childress Racing. If only Mark Martin could have passed Kyle for second place, that would have been awesome, at that point I was all about Kyle finishing as low as possible.
Ugh… This racing stuff is going is wear me out.
Clint Bowyer and his team celebrate winning the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
:: This is part four in a series of four posts (to see all of the posts on one page, click here) ::
Me: I know you have that history with Dale Earnhardt, and I know covering his death must have been horrible. I know in the book you wrote that his death changed you in a lot of ways, so how did it change you exactly? And how did it change the way you cover the sport? Did it change the way you cover the sport?
Liz: Oh, that’s hard. Let me first say, I’m certainly I’m not remotely unique. I think I speak for honestly millions of people when I say his death changed me and affected me. I don’t at all pretend to say my loss or my grief was any greater than other fans or certainly his own crew and own family. But, ya know, there was no personality quite like him and the circumstance, just the notion that he could have been killed was impossible to accept. To your question itself, I just was inconsolably sad and it wasn’t just when I went to the race track that I felt the loss. I just felt like the most charismatic, complex, fun, entertaining person had been taken away. Whether I covered a race and he spoke to me or not or he made some joke aside, or if I just saw him from across the garage, I mean, everybody watched that black car, everybody watched him when he got in the car. Ya know and he made you feel differently about yourself, he really did and I think every driver would tell you that. I mean he’d aggravate you or compliment you. I think sometimes when he ran you really hard that was his way of complimenting you.
There was one time they had built the track in Dallas, that awful first year of that race, and I was working for the Dallas Morning News and I was taking one of our metro columnists for a walk around the garage. He had never been to a race and I was trying to explain, ya know here’s the order that they park the cars and here’s what this means, be really careful ‘cause they’ll come in with their engines off and you won’t hear ‘em, ya know a lot of basics when you’re sort of showing somebody around. Earnhardt came around the corner in the car; he was in a practice session so they were in and out and in and out. And he whipped his car, hand to God, about two inches from my foot. Swung it right toward me, the guy next to me almost fainted. And I said, “Oh, he’s just saying hello.” And he was grinning and that was totally him. I’m not sure I talked to Dale that day but that’s the kind of stuff he would do. He’d do stuff like that to Schrader, Mark Martin. It was just his little way. It’s an aside, but the notion that he was gone; it was just a hole of blackness. This profound hole, it was like the sun was gone. It was just something so integral to way you saw the world was gone. I still feel that way, I still feel that way. I know Rusty Wallace feels that way, we’ve talked about it. It’s not something people talk about in racing too much. But I don’t think seven years has lessened it at all.
Me: Why do you think NASCAR was so slow, I guess is the word, to put in those mandatory safety features until after Dale Earnhardt’s death, especially the HANS device, especially after all of those incidents?
Liz: That’s really a shameful chapter in NASCAR’s history, and of course it’s easy to say in hindsight. From the day NASCAR started it was very clear that drivers were independent contractors. And what NASCAR meant by that is if you’re hurt we don’t owe you disability. You don’t work for us; you’re your own boss. And you can come play in our sport but we’re not responsible for you, we have no liability for you and it was a really smart posture to take. And they really, I think for business reasons, wanted to hold on to that as long as they could. Therefore, ya know, with every rule you make about how you stay safe, if something goes wrong with that then you’re technically liable. I mean, on the HANS device I can sort of empathize with NASCAR’s choice to not make that mandatory because there were several drivers who felt very, very strongly that it would keep them from being able to get out of a burning car. And the prospect of being trapped in a burning car understandably is the worst scenario for a race car driver and the fuel cell solved a lot of that. But still drivers would say flat out if it’s a choice of breaking my neck and burning up I want to break my neck. There were drivers who didn’t want to do it and made clear they wouldn’t want to do it. Earnhardt would have been chief among them. He wouldn’t even wear a closed face helmet, again not because he was being a tough guy, but he really thought peripheral vision was his best safety device. And he felt a closed-face helmet limited his peripheral vision. So he had very personal, very strongly felt views about his safety and that that’s what kept him safe. A lot of drivers felt the HANS device was not a deal they wanted.
There’s also a tradition in all forms of racing that every fatal accident is a freak accident. That there’s nothing to be learned from it in terms of the race car or the track or the rules of the sport, whether that’s racing back to the caution. It doesn’t really warrant further study because it was a freak deal; it’s not going to happen again. It was only because this part on the car failed, or the weird convergence of events, it’s just a way of rationalizing it away and therefore no drivers or driver’s family really have to wonder “is this safe?” It’s sort of a way of coping and a way of doing business and those were really entrenched that you don’t make wholesale changes after one guy dies and then another guy dies and then Earnhardt was the fourth in 11 months, I’m pretty sure.
Me: So do you think the whole idea of a drivers association, kind of like the NBA has and the NFL has, could ever happen in NASCAR?
Liz: I don’t think it will ever happen in NASCAR and I regret that. I think there’s a lot of use for the drivers on certain occasions speaking as one, having a representative. And they’ll tell you that that happens now that it’s ad hoc. They go in and speak to Mike Helton and Robin on matters of concern and I know that does happen. But I just like level playing fields and in NASCAR for all the bravery the drivers have, they’re not represented in the decision making, to me, to the extent they should be. I would love to see a drivers association with somebody like Jeff Burton be the head of it for the first couple years. He’s just so well spoken and reasoned and really smart about what’s in NASCAR’s interest, what’s in the driver’s interest, he’s not emotional. And I know there are other guys, I mean, Mark Martin would be perfect for that. It’s really only rarely have drivers sought that. It’s been a long time, it’s been seven years since I’ve even heard it discussed.
After a road trip that consisted of over 500 miles, one prison, and 50 Lance Burton billboards, I made it to Las Vegas on Friday.
I checked in to the hotel I went straight to the track to pick up my credentials. Traffic was crap.
Here’s the thing you should know about me. I’m a rule follower. I don’t like to break rules. It bothers me when others break rules. If we all say we’re going to do it one way I don’t like it when people disregard all of that and do whatever they want. So with that being said, I thought I was prepared. Well as much as I could be given the fact that when you’re given credentials nobody tells you anything about where anything is. It’s all up to you to figure it out. Of course you can ask (and I have), but I don’t understand why they don’t have some sheet that just outlines basic stuff, like here’s how you get to the media center, here’s what those symbols on your credentials mean and what they give you access to, here’s why you’re not getting a parking pass, etc.
So back to Friday, My first mistake was getting off at the exit for general parking, there was another exit designated for people picking up credentials but I didn’t find that out until yesterday when I was on my way to the track again.
After exiting the freeway, I went in the direction that should have taken me to another road where I should have been able to turn left. Mm, no. All of the cops in the world were out in force and were diverting traffic to the right. So I went right. But I still needed to get to the credential office before it closed. So because my hands were tied, I did what the other people who were pissed that they couldn’t go left like they needed to did, I made what I’m sure was an illegal u-turn and headed back up the road. I crossed in front of oncoming traffic to turn into the credentials gate, no help from the cops there.
After I got my credentials I decided to just go back to the hotel. There was no way I was going to figure out how to get into the track at that point. Besides, I was tired and qualifying was over.
The navigation system in my car said that it should take 25 minutes to get back to the hotel. It actually took an hour. Traffic in general on the city streets was slow and then once you were on the highway there were two accidents to contend with.
So that was Friday. Saturday I made sure I got up early to be at the track as soon as the gates opened so I could get a good parking spot. Here’s the problem with that plan. There’s like thousands of other NASCAR fans who had the exact same plan. My spot ended up not being that bad but it was still a bit of a walk to get to the track entrance.
This was my first time to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I was in awe of the Media Center. In the first floor lobby there’s this big wall of glass looking out at the start/finish line and pit row. I think I might have actually said “whoa” out loud.
It’s a beautiful, pristine building. But you know there’s a gripe coming right? The Media Center has three floors. The first has a lounge, a big meeting room (for drivers meetings and the like) and direct access to pit road. The second floor is where the deadline media have their view of the start/finish line and it’s where all of the PR materials, schedules & stat sheets live. The third floor, complete with roof access is where the VIP suites are situated. I’m not deadline media so that means I can sit in one of the workrooms and watch the race on a TV. I just think there’s something off about that. I’m here at the race with all this access and yet I still have to watch the race on a TV? Why not let me have access to the roof with the high rollers? I’ll promise to not eat anything from their platters of food.
I have no idea where I’ll be watching the race from today, but I can guarantee you it won’t be solely from a TV. The more I think about that the more it irks me. Ugh. Anyway…
Below are photos from Friday and Saturday. I’m posting my photos tomorrow as I forgot to bring my USB cord with me today. Lame.
Kasey Kahne retreats to his hauler after he was one of six Dodge drivers to find the wall during Friday’s practice for the UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Indy Racing League Indy Car Series champions Jimmie Johnson and Dario Franchitti chat while looking for shade from the hot Las Vegas sun during qualifying for the UAW-Dodge 400. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart motions to his crew what he’s experiencing on the track during practice for the UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne was fastest in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice on Saturday for Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Doing the double this weekend, Greg Biffle qualified his NASCAR Nationwide Series car and then hopped in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride for two practices before racing his Nationwide car on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mark Martin (No. 5) slides by after making contact with Carl Edwards (No. 60) who collided with Brad Keselowski (No. 88) late in the Sam Town’s 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates the first win for JR Motorsports with Mark Martin taking the No. 5 to victory lane. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images)
Wednesday night I stayed up past my bedtime (my workday bedtime) and watched NASCAR in Primetime on ABC.
Today I read a review of the show from the New York Times and I think the reviewer got it right — this documentary isn’t covering any new territory. But it’s still entertaining nevertheless.
I dig the fact that it follows lesser known teams — in the first episode we saw Johnny Sauter’s team struggle at Atlanta — and that you get to hear & see real fans talk about why they love NASCAR. That kid with the Carl Edwards hat on was so cute, and very knowledgeable about the drivers.
Oh and who knew Mark Martin was so freaking buff?? Jenkies Batman… I think he’s better looking now than when he was younger, and the same goes for Dale Jarrett. They’re total hotties as older gentlemen. Plus it’s not like they’re that old. Ah I’m rambling.
So overall I dig the fact that this documentary is even on TV at all, but at the same time I was hoping there’d be more to it. Something we haven’t seen before, or some other angle. I dunno… Maybe I’m asking for too much.
– It’s all been done before, hasn’t it? Tomorrow night is the premiere episode of ABC’s new five-part series “NASCAR in Primetime.” It’ll air on Wednesdays at 10 PM EST (check your local listings). ABC News is promising to “offer viewers a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the inner workings of stock-car racing.” The show followed Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya and others over the course of five months. Juan Pablo will be on Good Morning America with his wife Connie tomorrow to promote the special.
– The mayor of David Stremme’s home town — South Bend, Indiana — has declared August 21st to be David Stremme Day. To celebrate the city is hosting a party, “Stremme Comes Home/Rally to Bristol,” that’s open to the public from 5 PM to 8 PM.
“I haven’t really been back home in South Bend to spend any quality time in about a year, so this party is for my fans, friends, family and I to catch up,” said Stremme, who now resides in Concord, N.C. “It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up with work when you’re spending as much time as we do on the road. I’m thrilled to be hosting this event at Century Center in South Bend, and am looking forward to catching up with everyone and just having a good evening together.”
The event will also raise funds for Coaches Vs. Cancer headed locally by Notre Dame Basketball coach Mike Brey, as well as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
– Happy (sorta early) Birthday wishes to Carl Edwards, he turns 28 tomorrow.
– On Friday night feel free to give Kurt Busch a hard time on my behalf. He’ll be bartending at the Artesian Wells Sports Tavern in Cement City, Michigan from 8pm to 9pm. He’ll be there to raise money for charity.
– At this weekend’s Cup race in Michigan Casey Mears will be rocking a special 1957 Chevy paint scheme for his No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Monte Carlo SS. What’s the special occasion? To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Chevrolet.
“I’ve always loved classic cars — I have a ’61 Chevy Impala convertible and a couple of hot rods here and there. My dad is big into collector car shows, and that’s something I enjoy as well. Running the ’57 paint scheme should be a lot of fun this weekend, and Michigan, being the home track for Chevrolet, is an especially fitting place for us to do it.”
– I had to post these quotes from Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is by no means out of the Race to the Chase:
“I’m sure some people are gonna write us off for the Chase after our problems at Watkins Glen,” said Earnhardt, who finished 42nd at the Glen because of engine problems.
“But, I think it’s foolish to do so because we’re a great team and we’re gonna do everything we can to scratch and claw and fight for wins and every position on every lap.
“We have four races coming up at four tracks where we’ve been very, very good lately. No one has been better or more consistent at Michigan than we have the last few years. We’re taking our favorite car – chassis No. 39 – that we’ve been using there and it just seems to really get up and go at Michigan.”
It’s OK Dale, I believe in you.
This just in: Michael Waltrip “allegedly” fell asleep at the wheel while driving home and wrecked his car. Waltrips behavior after the crash (crawling out of his car, walking home, and not reporting the accident) has people wondering if there isn’t more to this story. And I think I might have to agree with them, after all, he’s got something to cry in his cocoa about — his new racing team isn’t doing very well this year.
In other less accident prone news Mark Martin spoke with the media today and had some nice things to say about NASCAR racing newcomer Ricky Carmichael, his realistic expectations for the new Toyota teams and his admiration for his sponsor the U.S. Army.
Q. Are you happy with the progress Ricky Carmichael has made so far? What are some of the problems or issues you see being a rookie?
MARK MARTIN: We’ve just done one race and I was thrilled with what he did. He has an awful lot to learn and he learned quite a bit the first time out. Real excited about working with Ricky. I love him as a person. He is a fierce competitor and incredibly talented. I’m sure, as sure as I’m breathing, that he’s going to do this.
Q. There’s still some concerns I guess at Texas Speedway, some drivers have brought up the fact there’s still a bump in the road, bump in the track, there’s some problems there. Are you satisfied with the changes they’ve made?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I’m not aware of any problems at the racetrack. I love it and I think the drivers love it. I think the fans love it. It’s a fabulous facility.
Q. Is it to be expected that teams have struggled so far this year? Is that to be expected?
MARK MARTIN: Let me give you my take on this. I know you haven’t noticed this, but this is the truth from a guy who knows. I know what I’m talking about. Dave Blaney and Bill Davis’ car was a top five car in all four of the first four races, they just didn’t finish there. They exceeded my expectations. I mean, serious top five car. Didn’t get the finish they had coming.
And then Vickers ran great in the Bud Shootout at Daytona and ran great in California, but didn’t make most of the rest of the races. He could have ran great like 10th. I think that’s great.
So, yeah, they’ve had a disaster. You know, I mean, Michael Waltrip Racing hasn’t met expectations, but whose expectations. My expectations for them were for them to struggle desperately because it’s such a hard — what he tried to do is huge: start a new three-car team. Wasn’t expanding a two-car team to a three-car team, whatever. Starting from scratch, Michael got good people, but he just didn’t get them mixed together just right just yet.
Michael Waltrip Racing is struggling, and Red Bull is struggling, not necessarily Toyota is struggling. I’d say Bill Davis is exceeding expectations with the 22 car.
MODERATOR: Mark, out here in Phoenix, we have a program called Salute to Military Families Program. Last year it was able to provide over 4,000 tickets to military servicemen and their families in the state of Arizona. We’ve continued this program this year. As you know, much of NASCAR is devoted to military support. You driving the U.S. Army car, you never hesitate to speak of that, your appreciation of the military while racing. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that and what it means to you to represent the U.S. Army this season.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, the U.S. Army represents so many things that are important to me and to the fabric of our country, like loyalty, honesty, duty, discipline, respect, a lot of things that are huge not only to me but to our country. What we don’t get the message across enough is how proud we are of our soldiers and what they’re doing for us, what it means to us and to our country. That’s something that I think is really important for all of us to try to keep in mind.
Apparently Kevin Harvick hasn’t seen the animated movie “Cars,” because if he had he would have let Mark Martin win!
I know, I know, Kevin Harvick won the Daytona 500 fair and square, but still. Mark Martin has done everything but win the 500 and a Cup Championship and this is his last year racing in the Cup series. Harvick has a million years left in his career; this was Martin’s last chance.
Honestly my heart hurts for Mark Martin, I wish he could of edged out Harvick. He was so freaking close.
My other disappointments for the day included Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer who both ended up in big crashes late in the race.
Overall there aren’t many highlights of note. Kelly Clarkson‘s pre-race mini concert was just OK. She sang “Since U Been Gone”, “Miss Independent” (during which they unfurled a big picture of the Statue of Liberty, can you say lame?) and some new song that I’d never heard of before.
Country duo Big and Rich sang the national anthem and Nicolas Cage gave told the drivers to start their engines. I don’t know if it was just me but his hair looked a little weird (see below). At least his movie “Ghost Rider” was tops at the box office this weekend.
“Happy” Harvick himself
Winner Kevin Harvick, left, rookie David Ragan, center, and second-place Mark Martin speak during a news conference following the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
Luckily Clint Bowyer walked away from this mess without any problems
Flames lick from Clint Bowyer’s car, while Carl Edwards (99) passes by on the track following a crash on the last lap of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
No autographs for you Jeff Gordon fans!
NASCAR fans peer through the windows into the garage area as Jeff Gordon watches preparations for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Glenn Smith)
Am I right or am I right? Scary hair for Nicolas Cage
Actor Nicolas Cage, grand marshal for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race and who appears in the upcoming movie “Ghost Rider,” speaks during a news conference at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
Speaking of scary hair, here’s Kelly with extensions
Singer Kelly Clarkson entertains prior to the start of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
And here’s Kelly with just her real hair
Singer Kelly Clarkson, right, talks with driver Martin Truex Jr. at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007, the day before the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
insert a clip of the annoying song “bad day” here
Car parts lie outside a garage following the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)