Archive for August, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Twittering away the day at Bristol Motor Speedway, part 2

We spent Saturday at Bristol for race day, and over on Twitter, I offered up a running commentary. (Here’s Part 1.) Follow along to see what I saw before, during and after the race. (Note: this is in reverse chronological order, so if you want the real feel, start at the bottom and work up.) And for future races and other nonsense, follow me along on Twitter right now.

At my hotel. They cancelled my reservation but made amends. Good thing;!22-hour day was very close to ending in blood. Night, all!

Aaaaaaaand we have standstill traffic at quarter to 2. I’m not as entranced by you as I was during racetime, Bristol. – I bet Mark Martin did this on his way out of town. – Planning on it. – Good night, Bristol Motor Speedway! Dream fast dreams! – The running of the Bristol Pro-Am is underway!

Okay, the interviews are done. Going to post a couple things, then call it a night and get on the road. – Kyle and Coach Gibbs in the press room right now.

Watching Johnson and Martin weave through traffic is like one of those flicks where the hero has to push his way thru indifferent commuters.

Logano’s car looks like it’s held together with tape. Side note: the souvenir die-casts at Bristol come "pre-damaged" with scraped paint.

There is a helicopter flying very low over the track. Kind of creepy when you can see the lights of the track reflected on its underside.

Guys to watch, in addition to Martin: I’m thinking Kyle’s still very much in this. Hamlin is someone to eye, too. And Truex is feelin’ it. [Editor's note: You see! I called it at 9:35 p.m. on race night!]

I’m jinxing the hell out of this, but this has been a remarkably calm and caution-free race so far.

Slow down on the Martin coronation–Johnson just passed him like, well, like Jimmie Johnson does to everybody.

It’s the battle of the Martins–Mark and Truex. Mark is checking out on the field, but Truex has been the big mover so far. – Preface: the parachuting flagbearer. Earnhardt Jr. Alone in a crowded stadium. – My vantage point right now. – Kyle and Vickers share a truck. Can’t you just feel the love?

Logano came out to Eastbound and Down. With that move, he just jumped into my top 5 faves.

Polite crowd cheered for everybody except Kyle, jj and montoya.

Vickers and Kyle are sharing a truck. Pictures in a sec.

You’ll be able to hear the boos for Kyle in Memphis.

Worst possible intro song: I’m just a girl? Horse with no name? Muskrat love? Womanizer? Discuss.

David Ragan mispronounces his own name. Intro fail.

Junior enters to Thumderstruck, and the place goes insane. Who cares if he never wins again?

These driver intros are hysterical. Full rundown on the Marbles later.

They’re deep into the corporate sponsorship love right now. If you’re a fan of vice-presidents of marketing, you’re in heaven right now. – … or the guy in the pit box next to him, Tony Raines? (Hint: count the tires.) – A NASCAR quiz: which driver is more prepared to run the whole race: Jamie McMurray – For @emergiblog and @Abigale9 : Kasey in line. Behind him, Junior’s ride awaits "inspection." – For @matthewhleach : I don’t see the anchor at Burton’s pit, so it must be on the car. Sorry, bro. – For @cybersis004 : Can you see the 07? I can’t! It’s camouflaged! – For @theoldmanpar: up close with Kyle’s ride. I’m gonna hide in the back under a blanket. – As requested by Michael: me with McMurray’s ride. Going to get my tips frosted now. – As requested: Smoke’s ride. There’s nobody around. I’m gonna carjack it! – The most kick-ass sponsor of the year. You can’t go wrong adding "slayer" to anything. – As requested by Adam: Carl Edwards‘ 99 car. Not sure that stuffed duck is going to stay on long. – As requested by Tammy: the 39 car. Sadly, no Newman to be seen.

New Marbles: Running wide open: The Sharpie 500 talkback thread – Jimmie Johnson, in blue shirt, nearly gets run over by Scott Speed‘s car en route to drivers’ mtg.

In the pits now. (Literally, not emotionally.) Anybody got any photo requests? Hit me back. – A crew member checks to see if Junior left any change in the 88 car. – Sliced Bread signs for his adoring public.

Heading to pits and drivers mtg. More pics a-comin’. – TRACKSIDE SEATING: UR DOIN IT WRONG

New Marbles: Secrets of driving Bristol, from a guy who’s done it often

New Marbles: Twittering away the day at Bristol Motor Speedway, part 1 – Hot sun. NASCAR fans. Free hard iced tea. No way this ends well. – They say it’s a chance to do a burnout in Dale jr.’s car. I say it’s secretly an audition to replace him.

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PostHeaderIcon Busch Beats Bristol – Holds On To Chase Hopes

I recently read part of an article over the last week at talking about how the Chase has made the Bristol night race boring because those in the Chase will be strokin’ for points and not racing for the win.  OK I can see the point but I differ a litlle bit in my perspective, I don’t see the night race being boring because of the Chase, in fact I think it makes it a little more interesting and Kyle Busch is proof of that.

Kyle isn’t in the Chase  … yet … nor is Vickers or Bowyer for that matter but they were close to being there before the start of this race and then you have other drivers like Mark Martin hovering around the 12 place position hanging on by their fingertips to stay in the Chase.

It is the fate of these drivers’ Chase hopes that makes the night race at Bristol interesting in my opinion.

Is the night race at Bristol like it used to be in the past?  No, but the track is no longer a single ‘freight train-like’ lane either, not since it was repaved anyway, but boring it is not, different yes, boring no, not when Chase dreams depend on the driver’s performance at this track.

Just looking at Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer will affirm that – Busch still has hope because of his win while Bowyer’s hopes have essentially been dashed because of his getting caught up in several wrecks resulting in a poor finish for the 33 team.

I mean when was the last time you ever saw Bowyer refuse to do an interview after the race?

Racing NASCAR-style has not become less interesting since the introduction of the Chase, not if you are an active fan and know what to watch for on the track.

If you are an occasional fan and know little about the Chase format then yes you may find some of these races ‘boring’ but if you are interested in the sport as I am and know about the drivers and the standings as I do then each race should prove to be more interesting for you as the Chase gets closer because you are looking at the bigger picture and not just who the winner of each race might be.

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PostHeaderIcon Racing in the Bristol bullring is truly a must-see experience

Part rock concert. Part carnival. All spectacle. That describes the Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. And when the track is the third-to-last stop before the Chase begins on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the scene is especially surreal.

I’ve been to large-capacity sporting events at some historic venues before. The Kentucky Derby. The Rose Bowl. But race day at this .533 mile track surrounded by grandstands that climb high into the rural eastern Tennessee sky is truly something to see in person.

They call the place the "World’s Fastest Half-Mile." And the tableau is a unique one. Wow! There’s a couple of shirtless dudes with tattoos on their chest. Look! There’s points leader Tony Stewart (who’s a lot shorter in person) hopping off a golf cart heading to a driver’s meeting. Check it out! There’s NASCAR president Mike Helton, soaking in the late afternoon sun outside a hauler in the pits. RVs as far as the eye can see. People wearing gear of their favorite drivers. Lots of 88s. Not so many 24s. Of course, when you pack 160,000 people into BMS, you’re bound to have differing opinions. Needless to say, you do.

And this place is loud. It didn’t earn its nickname of Thunder Valley for nothing. If you do go (and seeing this thing in person is something even casual race fans should do), bring earplugs. Lots of ‘em.

Blair Johnson is a video producer for Yahoo! Sports.

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PostHeaderIcon Create-a-caption: In a shot from 2024, President Johnson enters

Tell me this doesn’t look like President Obama is welcoming President Jimmie Johnson. With secret servicemen Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer looking on. Caption this, friends; you’ve got plenty to work with!

After the jump, Brian Vickers is trampling on people’s lawns.

Vickers- "Yeah, parental units, take that! I don’t wanna do my homework, I do what I want."

NASCAR official: You guys cut down any of the grass with that splitter and the gardeners union will have your ass!

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PostHeaderIcon Nationwide in 500 words or less: Ragan wins more than a trophy!

With the Nationwide Series race falling on a Friday and the University of South Alabama on the verge of its first season of NCAA football, I present to you a shortened version of my typical B-Series recap. I have newspaper obligations throughout the week so I apologize to you the reader, as well as Fearless Leader for my lack of posts.

I do promise to all of you that I’ll be giving you material in the future that will make you both rant and rave as well as toss numerous pestiferous profanities towards my mother.

The Nationwide Recap can be found after the jump.

Entering Friday night, David Ragan was feeling the heat. Many were starting to label Ragan as the weak-link of the Roush-Fenway conglomerate despite Jamie McMurray getting the boot from team execs last month.

Making matters worse, Ragan was entering a track that he had struggled with his entire career. He was 0-for at Bristol throughout every stop to the Coliseum in his NASCAR career but on Friday night he broke through, winning the Food City 250.

Ragan held off teammate Carl Edwards over the last 56 laps, including a green-white-checker to win his second NASCAR race of 2009.

In the process, Ragan also won a little respect from both his peers and from fans that may have started to think that Ragan was another bust.

 ”We didn’t come here to finish second, but he’s a great guy, and a great teammate,” Edwards said. “If you guys don’t have a David Ragan hat or T-shirt, you need to go get one. There’s no better guy out there.”

It’s the respect that Edwards gave his teammate that likely kept him employed in one of NASCAR’s top-tier teams. But the skills that Ragan showed on Friday night should keep him there. Jack Rouse knows what a talented driver is and there is no reason to start doubting in what he sees in Ragan. Here’s to hoping that those skills translate over to Cup before the end of the season.

Friday was not a complete bummer for the runner-up. Edwards saw his deficit to points leader Kyle Busch drop to 248 after Busch was involved in a early wreck with rookie Chase Austin.

Apparently, Austin cut down in front of Busch in an attempt to get to pit road before his spotter cleared him.

Austin cut down into the race-leading Busch and destroyed both race cars.

Kudos goes to Busch who controlled his temper and was very sympathetic to Austin in a post-accident interview.

“Real unfortunate that it happened,” Busch said. “I’ve made mistakes too. Chase, I guess, didn’t have the spotter telling him the leaders were bearing down. It stinks.”

I love Kyle’s emotions and commitment to winning. But a little humility and regard to other drivers will help him go a long way to winning over new fans. Those three lines did more to get me off his back than any victory has. Keep it up Kyle.

Word is going around that this was a very interesting race and I hate that I missed it. Saturday should make up for it greatly and I hope to see all of you in the race thread! One last congratulation to David Ragan and continued success.

TOP 10:

1. David Ragan

2. Carl Edwards

3. Brad Keselowski

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Matt Kenseth

6. Jason Leffler

7. Clint Bowyer

8. Michael Annett

9. Paul Menard

10. Michael McDowell

Nationwide Points:

1. Kyle Busch 3,900

2. Carl Edwards, -248

3. Brad Keselowski, -303

4. Jason Leffler, -547

5. Justin Allgaier, -1057

6. Steve Wallace, -1115

7. Jason Keller, -1173

8. Mike Bliss, -1187

9. Brendan Gaughan, -1251

10. Michael McDowell, -12921

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PostHeaderIcon The Pace Lap: The Sharpie 500 @ Bristol

Welcome to The Pace Lap, your catchall preview post! Let’s get you started on race weekend with a metric truckload of stats, facts, opinion and innuendo.

The race: Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:43 p.m. Eastern

The specs: 500 (whew!) laps on a 0.533-mile track

The broadcasts: ESPN. The live chat right here on Yahoo! Sports. And all day Saturday, I’ll be roaming Bristol and taking you along via a live Twitter feed. Follow along, won’t you?

Defending champ: Carl Edwards, who is apparently only the size of an action figure, judging from that Sharpie at left.

The standings leaders: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and a bunch of other guys.

The history: This Saturday night’s race is said to be the toughest ticket to get in sports outside of Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The track, with a capacity of 160,000, is the largest amphitheater on the planet. The Roman Colosseum had a capacity of about 50,000, and the Circus Maximus in Rome had a capacity of 250,000. [Insert Mark Martin joke here.]

The appropriate video: From last summer’s Bristol race, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch tangle at the end of the race. This led Kyle to make his infamous "Mr. Ed" comment about Carl:

Guy(s) with the most to gain: Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer, once again. These two, particularly Vickers, are knocking on the door of the Chase, and with the way that Bristol victimizes people without regard to talent or position, both could find themselves in the Chase come Saturday night.

Guy with the most to lose: Kyle Busch. It’s now or never, as Elvis would say, and if Kyle Busch doesn’t make the Chase, it would have to go down as a colossal embarrassment and a total underachievement. He may be the most talented pound-for-pound driver in NASCAR, but he’s got to put all the other pieces in place, starting this weekend.

Our pick to win: Edwards. Sometime soon, this guy’s absolutely got to break through. I feel like the dude who keeps losing at blackjack but keeps doubling his bets to catch up. Edwards is going to win or I’m going to go bankrupt, one of the two.

All right, you’re up. Who’s your pick for this weekend? Go!

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PostHeaderIcon Midnight Marbles, where Smoke swiped some White House china

Don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of these NASCAR-goes-to-Washington photos. (Yes, there’ll be a fine C-a-C coming up tomorrow.) For instance, check out the look on Tony Stewart‘s face there. What did he just do in the White House? What’s he got stashed in his pockets? Mystery, friends, mystery.

This here’s your Midnight Marbles post, where you can discuss whatever you like, starting with why Tony looks like he’s four feet tall there. Have at it, and we’ll be back soon with more!

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PostHeaderIcon The White House honors Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR

NASCAR drove straight into the heart of democracy on Wednesday as President Obama welcomed many of the sport’s most notable drivers and legends to the South Lawn of the White House. Sadly, nobody did a burnout on the lawn, but that was about the only downside of the entire affair.

It’s not the first time that NASCAR drivers have visited the White House, of course; most recent Cup winners, including Jimmie Johnson, have stopped by for a quick Oval Office visit after their seasons. But this was different; this was NASCAR as a whole both receiving the blessing and, in effect, endorsing a Democratic White House that, to put it delicately, much of the NASCAR constituency may not exactly support.

Obama had been coached somewhat; he pronounced the sport "NAZ-CAR" and seemed just slightly uncertain about the format of the Chase — which, to be fair, puts him in the company of most NASCAR fans. But he’s a sports fan and understood the basic concepts just fine; several drivers remarked how relaxed the environment seemed, how conversational.

But this wasn’t just about smiles; no, there was political maneuvering at work here. In a move that will surely warm the hearts of NASCAR’s faithful, Obama took pains to note that he believes the Big Three automakers belong in NASCAR, and he had high praise for Johnson (whom he compared to Tiger Woods), Jeff Gordon and other NASCAR stars. One of the funnier sidelights of the entire afternoon was the way all the drivers, with the exception of old pro Johnson, seemed like giddy fans around the president. TV cameras caught Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and others posing for pictures the exact same way fans do with them every single weekend.

Yes, this was a promotional, feel-good opportunity, but it was an important symbolic one as well. No sport has been hit harder by the economic downturn than NASCAR, and because of its predominantly right-leaning fanbase, no sport could be more in danger of being marginalized by the current power structure. But both sides made some positive PR steps forward together, and while deep political divisions still exist, perhaps both sides gained a few new fans.

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PostHeaderIcon Midnight Marbles, where we’re gonna take a nap right here

Hey everybody, it’s time for another Midnight Marbles post, where you can talk about whatever you’d like. Starting with what the heck that guy from Kasey Kahne‘s crew is doing there (photo found by reader Carol). Stretching? Napping? Yoga? Broadsided by Michael Waltrip? You never know.

Have a good one, everybody, and we’ll be back soon with more stuff.

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PostHeaderIcon They make it ’cause we buy it: NASCAR toothbrushes

No sport offers up a more bewildering array of souvenir crap memorabilia than NASCAR, and They Make It digs deep into the corners of the Internet to bring all that strangeness to light. Today: hygiene!

The item: NASCAR toothbrushes, $6.99 apiece from Sport Click Authentics

The deal: It’s NASCAR toothbrushes! And how do you know they’re meant for NASCAR fans? Because they’re not called TEETHbrushes! Ha ha! Get it? Oh, I’m not done yet. This collection has six different models:

• The NASCAR toothbrush, which has steel wool for bristles but will absolutely not be changed, no matter how much sense it might make to change it.

• The Dale Earnhardt toothbrush, which glows with a heavenly aura whenever you pick it up.

• The Dale Earnhardt Jr. toothbrush, which you’ll stick up your nose while trying to put it in your mouth.

• The Michael Waltrip toothbrush, which will collide with your cheek and shatter into pieces.

• The Rusty Wallace toothbrush, which bills itself as an astonishing tooth cleaning device but doesn’t ever seem to do quite as good a job as you’d think.

• The Tony Stewart toothbrush, which will actually leave your teeth filthier than when you started.

And we’re just getting started …

The hat tip: Gator, who has way too much time on his hands. If you’ve got some classic NASCARiana, send it along to Go!

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