Archive for June, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart drop in on Wisconsin for racing

So you’re an up-and-coming young racer, making your name on small tracks. You’ve been invited to an All-Star race, and you’ll be wheeling it against the best cats in your area. But you can take ‘em, oh yes you can. You’re ready to roll, baby, all full of motor oil and rocket fuel. You’re going to make your name tonight. And then you show up at the track to find out who you’ll be running against …

Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. Aw, crap.

Yep, Flatline and Smoke did that oh-so-cool "racing with regular folks" thing Tuesday night, traveling to the Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin for an All-Star exhibition race, the Swiss Colony All-Star 100, against a field that included Kenseth’s son Ross. How did it go? Let’s check the local news:

Kenseth slipped past Steve Carlson, whom local media called the state’s best short-track driver, for the last-second win. Smoke, meanwhile, languished back in the pack and never got it going.

Line of what was certainly a very special night for the locals went to Kenseth: "It’s fun to come back and race against a bunch of guys I used to race
against. You
can tell I’m getting older because I’m racing against a bunch of their
kids."

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PostHeaderIcon Create-a-caption: ‘Like we told Hornish, no parking on the wall’

Juan Pablo Montoya gets an unceremonious escort from the track at New Hampshire. There is humor to be found in his misfortune, is there not? Have at it.

After the jump, Kyle Busch tries some unconventional repair techniques.

Andy:
You got the power steering disconnected? Good. Now when you remove it, be very careful not to touch the sides of the car, or the alarm goes off and it becomes Billy’s turn.

peoplespigskin:
The "Free Truck Series Tickets if You Can Keep Your Hand on the 18 the Longest Contest" may not have been the best promotion Humpy ever conceived.

razz:
Getting stuck in the engine compartment with an approaching deadline necessitates a big sawzall guy with a splatter proof apron.

Nixiechick:
I hate when I show up to work and someone is wearing the same outfit.

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PostHeaderIcon So what’s up with those gigantic Loudon lobsters, anyway?

The Loudon Lobster has become one of my favorite traditions of the NASCAR season. The last few years, New Hampshire Motor Speedway has presented the winner of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 with a monster, Cloverfield-esque lobster. And the reactions of the drivers above tell you a whole lot about who they are as people, don’t they?

Anyway, lobster is like the house dish of New Hampshire. It’s like barbecue in Memphis, jambalaya in New Orleans, batter-fried gravy in Talladega. So it’s only right that they’d bestow one of these 25-pound behemoths on the winner.  

So the big question is, do the drivers eat ‘em? Hell, those things look like you could ride ‘em right into the pot … or off into the sunset, whichever. 

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PostHeaderIcon All eyes on Bruton: Could Smith take away a Loudon date?

Bruton Smith looks like he’d be right at home gambling on a riverboat in the late 19th century, and he’s got the attitude down pat. Right about now, he’s engaged in some high-stakes poker with Loudon, N.H., over the possibility of yanking a date from the track.

Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., is expected to let NASCAR know later this week about his scheduling plans for the 2011 season, plans which could include realignment (and removal) of races, according to Scenedaily.com.

Short version: Smith and the Loudon police department are locking horns over a $170,000 bill for police and fire protection. Smith wields threats the way that kid in those "The Last Airbender" previews wields fire and lightning — with elegant, devastating grace that has the potential for serious collateral damage. He threatened Charlotte — Charlotte! — with the loss of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and ended up getting tax incentives and a drag strip.  

Thing is, Loudon is on a lot less firm footing than Lowe’s ever was. New Hampshire and Atlanta are the two smallest-drawing races in SMI’s portfolio, and if Smith were to take away a race from one of his tracks to award it to Kentucky, it would almost surely come from one of those two. In other words, if you’re Loudon, you don’t want to give Smith any reason to pick you. (Indeed, conspiracy theorists are already hinting that Smith is using this dispute as a perfect cover for pulling a classic yoink! and grabbing away one date.)  

In slightly better news for New Hampshire — a little sugar to make the medicine go down? — Smith did announce that he’s bringing an IndyCar Series back to New Hampshire in July 2011. In addition, Smith and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard indicated that the idea of an Indy 500/Coke 600 Memorial Day double-dip for $20 million might just come to pass after all.

Speaking as a NASCAR observer, perhaps some of that money could be rerouted to New Hampshire. Speaking as an Atlanta race aficionado, though, I sure hope not. (Sorry, Loudon.)   

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PostHeaderIcon Like body odor and biscuits, Tony Stewart rises in the heat

Well, well, well. Look who’s in your rear-view mirror there, Jimmie Johnson.

With his second-place finish Sunday, Tony Stewart has posted top-10 finishes in the last four races, and five of the last six. Over that time, he’s jumped from 18th in the standings to ninth. And while he’s got a long way to go to be considered a championship contender, he’s nearing Chase-lock status.

For years, the book on Stewart has been that he heats up when the weather does, and once again, that’s held true. But one only need look back to last season, when Stewart dominated most of the regular season before fading quickly in the Chase, to know how tenuous a regular-season lead can be.

Problem is, Stewart would be starting the Chase already 50 points behind Johnson and Denny Hamlin. He needs wins, and he knows it. 

He called Sunday’s New Hampshire result "a good sign," noting that everyone at the shop has been pulling in the same direction. 

"I just appreciate everybody’s work at Stewart Haas," he said after the race. "Nobody
has quit on the deal.  We have all just dug deeper and, you know, it’s
hard when you’re down like that.  It’s hard to keep motivated and keep
everybody pumped up, and we all kind of have to pat each other on the
back and keep each other pumped up." 
 

It’s a testament to Stewart’s past success that they consider a first half bouncing around the lower edges of the Chase to be a disappointment. For quite a few drivers — not naming any names; you know who I’m talking about — such a season would be a magnificent run, a career-best stretch. But Stewart’s not nearly satisfied, and that’s why he might just turn into a dark horse contender in 2010 after all.

If he does, the postrace press conferences will be a lot more fun. But the most surprising moment of Smoke’s post-Loudon interview came when discussing Kurt Busch. Now, Stewart and Busch have a long history of beef, knocking into each other many times throughout the years. You’d have to figure that Sunday at New Hampshire was another chapter in their longrunning feud. So, Tony, what was up with that bumping and rubbing with Kurt in the final lap?

"Oh, that was my fault 100%."

Yeah! Stick it to hi — wait, what? 

"We both dove off into (Turn) One and we
both went as deep as we knew we could make it in there, and it’s my
responsibility as the driver on the inside to keep control of my car. And I lost it, and luckily, the good news is I’m hitting flat and it
didn’t knock him out or spin him out or anything like that. But it was
definitely 100% my fault for losing control of my car."

Aw, man. That’s no fun.

I’m not ready to declare a "new Tony" or anything like that — he’s one dumb question or one dumb crew mistake from tearing someone’s head off all over again — but he’s got to be happy that he’s heading the right direction in the standing. Winning smooths over a whole lot of problems. 

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PostHeaderIcon Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch still aren’t getting along

When Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya got together with 18 laps to go in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire, leader Jeff Burton and his crew were faced with a decision to pit or not.

They chose to stay out, while the rest of the field, including eventual winner Jimmie Johnson, headed to pit road. Not pitting quickly proved to be the wrong decision as Johnson passed Burton before they got through turn one.

As Burton got gobbled up by the lead lap cars behind him with fresher tires, he attempted to make a pass on Kyle Busch. We all remember that Burton got into Busch’s face after the Coca-Cola 600, and at first it looked like Burton took an opportunity to exercise some payback.

However, that wasn’t the case. Burton was looking to make a clean pass and just got loose underneath Busch, sending Busch into a spin.

"Well Kyle didn’t have anything to do with that, that was all me," Burton said to TNT. "He got loose off of two and I drove underneath him and I just underestimated the grip I would have getting into three and the back came around. I corrected and he was there. It was more of an incident with me and he paid the price for it. He didn’t do anything wrong."

Busch, who bounced back to finish 11th, wasn’t amused.

"You all saw it, I got wrecked. But it’s a product of good hard racing there at the end of the race," Busch said. (Trust me, it’s hard to emphasize the sarcasm that Busch had when he said that preceding sentence) "You know, a guy on no tires trying to make all of what he’s got. We screwed up. We didn’t have the right front underneath the car there at the end and I washed up the track and in the previous corner Kurt got by me and then went down in turn three and Burton got loose underneath me and we wrecked. That’s all there is to it."

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PostHeaderIcon Running wide open: The Lenox Tools 301 talkback thread

The race for the Chase begins Sunday at New Hampshire! Plenty of top-flight drivers are on the wrong side of the cut line. So who’s going to make the charge? Who’s going to hang in there? Make your guesses, and have your say about the race as it happens right here. Enjoy!

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PostHeaderIcon Dale Earnhardt Jr. won’t drive the No. 3 after Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is closing a circle this coming Friday when he races the Wrangler Chevrolet No. 3 in the Daytona Nationwide race. Closing it, and leaving it behind.

ESPN.com is reporting that Junior has said he has no intention of running the 3 after this week, surely breaking the hearts of many in Junior Nation who had hoped that Little E would — oh, just speculating here — jump to Richard Childress Racing and finish out his career racing under his daddy’s number. No, Junior said he’s "99 percent sure" he’ll never run under it again.

"It’s not [my number] to take and use whenever I feel like using it," he said, according to ESPN. "You just don’t grab the car keys off the counter and go run out the door and haul down the road with your dad’s car. I didn’t do it when he was alive, and I won’t do it now."

That may not fit the proper Shakespearean-style story of redemption — it’s like Hamlet with horsepower! — but it’s the appropriate move for Junior. It’s got to be tough enough driving his father’s number, and at Daytona, where the Intimidator lost his life? Seriously, that’s a lot to ask of any man.

But furthermore, Junior already lives in his father’s shadow. (The kid doesn’t even have his own name, for heaven’s sake.) Racing under his father’s number would solidify, once and for all, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not his own man, that he’s his father’s son first and foremost. And while that might suit fans of the Intimidator, it’s not fair to Junior. He should stand, fall, and miss pit stalls on his own name and merits.

"I’m borrowing it once," Junior said, "and then maybe sometime down the road some kid will come up, and he’ll have a connection to the 3 — whether it’s through my father or whether it’s what his number’s been since he was playing teeball. Whatever, you know, that will be his. It will be someone else’s."

Get those cameras and those memories ready, Junior fans. Next weekend will be a last-in-a-lifetime experience — and that’s only right.

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PostHeaderIcon C-a-c: ‘Here’s your problem. There’s a crewman under the hood.’

The 18 crew works desperately to try to get Kyle Busch back on track. Is there humor to be found in this situation? Of course there is. Have at it.

After the jump, everybody’s snuggling up at Sonoma.

razz:
Flag stand official: "What? What? Keep the green…..throw the yellow?
It’s too noisy up here…..I can’t tell if that’s Hendrick or Helton
yelling in my ear!"

wakko1337:
Flagman: "Dammit, we’re never going to win the synchronized driving championships now! OK everyone, let’s take it from the top!" 

Jessy S:
Finally, other NASCAR drivers manage to contain Denny Hamlin.

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PostHeaderIcon David Ragan helps drive Mustang 1,500 Bristol laps on one tank

Running 500 laps at Bristol is tough. Now imagine running nearly three times that amount, and doing it on a single tank of gas.

The folks at Ford just ran the Mustang 1,000-Lap Challenge with the new 2011 Ford Mustang, and guess what — they hit their mark and blew it away, going 1,457 laps or 777 miles at an mpg of 48.5 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Not bad, right?

The Challenge team included four Ford Mustang engineers and driver David Ragan, and they completed the entire circuit in 17 hours and 40 minutes. Ragan was the one who hit the 1,000-lap mark at about 7:30 Wednesday night, but the car kept on running until after midnight. (Let’s throw the other drivers some love: They were Seong Park, Tom Barnes, Jonathan Mehl and Carl Ek. Each one took a one-hour stint on the circuit.) 

Now, this isn’t like you’re going to get 1,500 miles on your next tank of gas. The engineers took several precautions, like driving smoothly and keeping air conditioning at a minimum. (Mmmm … southwestern Virginia in the summer with no air conditioning. Bet that Mustang smells lovely right about now.)

Anyway, congrats to the Mustang team on a hell of an achievement. OK, so — two Bristols’ worth of laps on a single tank of gas. I think I know Junior’s strategy now for the Bristol night race — can’t have a pit problem if you don’t have to pit!

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