Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jump on the Hate Jack Bandwagon!

The first three race weekends of the 2008 NASCAR season have already been rife with controversy.

  • Daytona Speedweeks saw 5 Busch teams get nailed for infractions involving an oil tank lid.An unapproved nose tarnished Robby Gordon’s brand new Dodge affiliation.
  • California saw empty stands, with nasty weather only partly to blame. A feeble attempt by NASCAR to run the race late at night was met with derision and anger by NASCAR fans.
  • Vegas saw, for the first time, some really outstanding racing, but the post race discussion was focused on Jeff Gordon’s comments stemming from a particularly bad wreck. And then, the famous Carl Edwards Victory Backflip showed to the world, what the NASCAR inspectors had already found: An illegally unfastened oil compartment cover.

On Wednesday, NASCAR handed out penalties for the #99 team owned by Jack Roush.

NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to the #99 team that competes in the Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rule infractions found last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The #99 car driven by Carl Edwards was found to be in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used do not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20-2.1J (any device or duct work that permits air to pass from one area of the interior of the car to another, or to the outside of the car, will not be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, the inside of the car to the trunk area, or the floors, firewalls, crush panels and wheel wells passing air into or out of the car) of the 2008 NASCAR rule book. The violations were found during post-race inspection at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2. As a result, Edwards and car owner Jack Roush have been penalized 100 championship driver and 100 championship owner points, respectively. In the event the #99 team qualifies for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the team will not receive the 10 bonus points for the UAW-Dodge 400 victory used for determining the Chase seeding order. Crew chief Bob Osborne has been fined $100,000, suspended from the next six Sprint Cup Series events, suspended from NASCAR until April 30 and placed on probation until Dec. 31.(NASCAR PR)

Jack issued a brief statement that was PR speak on the penalties, and that they were considering an appeal.

(If you are new to the sport, and don’t understand why this is an issue, take a moment to read Diandra Leslie-Pelecky’s blog The Science of….Missing Oil Tank Covers . Her book is on it’s way to my house, I can’t wait to see what other information about the Science of NASCAR will help to fill out my knowledge base.)

Suddenly, the first salvo was fired over the bow of Jack Roush’s good ship Integrity. The shooter? No less than former Roush employee Lee White, now working for Toyota. In an ESPN article , White claimed that Jack did this intentionally. The battle between Jack and Lee has escalated. Jack gave very detailed explanations of what happened, and fired a few salvo’s back at Lee White. White is now recanting his statements, but admits he probably will wait to personally apologize, as Jack might still be a bit too angry.

Amazing to several people is the number of drivers that so willingly jumped on the “Jack did it intentionally” bandwagon. Laudable voices from the garage include Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and what? who? Elliott Sadler?

My Friday afternoon group of NASCAR fans all hooted and howled when hearing of Sadler’s statement:
“I think that it insults my intelligence as a race car driver when you try and tell me that you accidentally left the oil tank lid off. If you go to any owner, any engineer, any driver any crew chief and ask them is that an advantage, ‘heck yeah it’s an advantage’. I’ve been doing that half of my career. When driving the 21 and 38 car, we pulled the shifter boot off and the oil tank lid off until NASCAR started to tech it.
  • First, even Sadler fans had a giggle over the ‘intelligence’ comment. This is a driver who has made a career of being a likeable doofus, one that proved it by making an ill-conceived jump off a stage and landing firmly on a rail, instead of into the waiting arms of burly security guards. He beaned one of his Trackside cohosts during a softball toss. He joyfully jumped into wet towel contests during a rain delay ‘pool party’ on Speed channel. His Myspace page, for the short time that it was public and not private, showed pictures of his partying behavior. Indeed Sadler's commercials for Nextel, Tylenol, and Speed TV show that Sadler allows himself to be placed in the role of a clown. Fellow blogger One Lugnut Short, has even created a hilarious Elliott Sadler Drinking Game , since Sadler’s race comments are predictable and unoriginal. Never once would I, or many of my race friends, have considered Sadler to be a serious spokesperson for NASCAR.
  • Second, many in the NASCAR Net World are pretty sure that Sadler was willing to jump on the Jack Bash Wagon because of an incident dating back to several years ago in a Busch race, where Carl Edwards punted Sadler for the win. There does appear to be continuing animosity towards Carl. Sadler’s business manager and spotter, Brett Griffin, even slammed Carl on the private Sadler Fan Club message board last year, after Carl and team mate Matt Kenseth had a confrontation that was very nearly physical in nature. Griffin claimed that the Sadler fans were now seeing what everyone in the garage knew about Carl.
  • Third, after Sadler made essentially the same statements (as above) on Sirius Speedway Friday afternoon, host Dave Moody pointed out that hopefully GEM’s gig was a good one, because he was probably not going to get hired by Roush Fenway, if Sadler was ever looking for a ride. Sadler’s commentary at that point, turned into effusive gushing praise of Carl and his driving skill, but it came off as a huge ‘whoops, gotta backtrack now!’ moment. I saw a huge amount of irony in Sadler making the statements, after his own Team Owner was caught at Daytona in 2007 using bolts that did not meet 2007 inspection, and for an wheel well violation on the #9 car. Come to think of it, he also admitted to being a cheater, and also shoved the Yates and Wood Brothers teams firmly into the path of a moving bus. Way to go, Esad!
I don’t think this issue is over. I will be looking for more news releases over the next few days.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Miscellanea from the Marbles!

Notes from Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Neon Garage is the best of experiences. It is also the worst of experiences.

  • LVMS needs to work on the escalator in the tunnel, as it kept overheating, forcing folks to walk up the escalator. That was the equivalent of around 6 flights of stairs, or more.
  • The line for folks trying to get into their seats from the Neon Garage on Cup day was insane. We planned on it taking two hours, and even with that focus, we almost did not make the start of the race. The problems? The track oversold the Neon Garage, and the line was not controlled. There were three separate, extremely long lines that merged, with folks cutting in at any point, with again…no control.
  • Seeing the drivers and the crew working so hard is wonderful. I realize the drivers are feeling like they are the main entertainment at the zoo, but this is such a wonderful way for fans to connect with their favorite drivers. However, there are a few fans of Junior that typified the worst of fans. Banging on the glass with their beer cans, screaming at the top of their lungs, ”Junior!!! Look At Me You ***Hole” is sure to make Junior want to run and get away from the idiots. I sure ran from them!
  • Some drivers react well to the increased exposure from the Neon Garage. One driver, David Gilliland, would be in the midst of a serious discussion about his car, with one of his crew …and would look up suddenly and see fans with cameras snapping away. Instead of getting angry, he smiled, waved, and kept talking.

    Other drivers were downright spooked, they would run and hide if any fans called their names. It was also interesting to see how drivers handled themselves with the fans who had the ‘hot passes.’

    I saw Kyle Petty take the time to sign autographs after being involved in a crash during practice.

    Kasey Kahne, very ill from the flu, took the time to wave at fans, and sign.

    I saw one ‘Affable Virginian’ come unglued at one fan, or should I say…former fan, who had the unmitigated gall to wait patiently nearby with pen in hand, only to have him shriek ‘NOT NOW’! using a voice loud enough to be heard over the sound of an nearby engine being revved.
Racing Notes
  • I was fully prepared to have some drivers complain about this track. I was right! Thank you Tony, you started the trend! After Tony and David Reutimann tangled during the Nationwide race, Tony complained about David being an ass. Then, after he obviously had time to review what REALLY happened, he revised his hate list to gripe about the track! One wonders about the length of the Hate List, as opposed to the Like List. I am thinking the former is getting longer, and the latter much shorter! I will say, though, that I am thankful he was not seriously injured this weekend. I am hoping he gets his back checked by his own doc, as the 'leg tingling' is not a good sign, and my personal experience of this wants me to yell over the ethernet....GET IT CHECKED OUT NOW! Please, much as I think you are forty kinds of an idiot, I want you to stay racing.
  • Then on Sunday, Jeff Gordon had a rant about the gaps in the inner wall, and the lack of SAFER barriers on the inner walls. Jeffy, Jeffy, Jeffy….how many other tracks have you raced at that do not have SAFER barriers on the inner walls? It only becomes an issue with you when YOU are involved? My suggestion, Jeff, is to use your influence to work with NASCAR on fixing these things when they affect other drivers, and to not wait until you are affected before complaining. I too am thankful that Hendrick built a wonderfully safe car, but I am equally thankful that the NASCAR's new car is doing its job of protecting the driver, by design.
  • The Man on a Mission? Kyle Busch is on a roll, trying to prove to the world and Mr. Hendrick that he is a better driver than Dale, Jr. M&M’s has already recieved their money’s worth with Kyle. However, the M&M’s transporter was a no-show for the Transporter Parade on the Las Vegas Strip. What a shame! There was a fabulous photo opportunity to have the Candy Hauler driving in front of the flagship store, M&M’s World! Especially when the CandyBoy earned the Pole Award the next day.

  • Speaking of the Candy Boy, I was surprised at the number and strength of Boo’s from the stands. Kyle appears to have more of a Boo-Bird contingent than Jeff Gordon! Grandstand Experts sitting near me were calling him Candy Brat, and talking about how the ‘home town crowd’ even seems to dislike him! Some of the locals had some very interesting stories about Kyle and some of his altercations at the Bullring.
  • Listening to the Sirius programming for a few hours this morning, I was fully prepared to hear callers repeating the lament of previous years “What a Boring Race!’ I am not hearing that this year. The track is now two grooves wide. During the race, I saw a lot of three-wide racing, with a few scary moments of four- wide! By this time next year, the track will have aged enough to be a full-tilt extravaganza!
  • Kudoes to the Yates Racing #28 driven by Travis Kvapil, with a top ten finish. And, the finish by David Gilliland in spite of a tranny repair is noteworthy.
  • LVMS deserves a second race! They were filled to capacity on Sunday. Even the Nationwide race had over 100,000 seats sold! The City of Las Vegas caters to the NASCAR fans, and provides off-track entertainment unparalleled to any other venue. However, LVMS dodged a bullet this weekend, with having fairly favorable weather! This time of year is always chancy, and I well remember at least two race weekends in the last 5 years that experience snow or sleet.
More on Vegas experience
  • Vegas still needs to work on its Traffic Exit Strategy. However, I know that this is a problem with all tracks.
  • Speaking of traffic jams, I was stunned at the lack of thinking in placing a Dale, Sr souvie hauler, plus that of the Junior trailer , and the Second Chance hauler all on the same corner in Souvie Row. Trying to plow through that mass of humanity was plain scary!
  • The Transporter Parade rocked! The last time I saw that many folks on the Strip, there was a casino implosion imminent. It was great fun for all!
  • More pedestrian woes....LVMS was trying to funnel the pedestrians past their special Lucky Seven parking. This year, they fenced off the premium lot, so that pedestrians could not cut through there to get to their general parking lots. Unfortunately, forcing all pedestrians into a small egress, and then adding 40 porta-johns was a huge mistake! Talk about the feeling of 'swimming upstream!'