Heading to Hotlanta

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2011 by Jordan Anders

With Atlanta coming up this weekend, there’s no denying that no one is hotter on the Cup circuit than Brad Keselowski.

Coming off of his third win of the year last week at Bristol, Keselowski has rocketed from 21st to 12th in the standings, with a legitimate shot at cracking the top 10 in the final two races before the Chase begins.

I’m still not 100% sold on Brad as a hardcore legit title contender (although it would only take another couple of weeks of him running this way to sway me), but if he is going to compete for the title, I think he absolutely has to make it into the top 10.

With this seeding system after the cutoff at Richmond, drivers earn 10 bonus points for every win they have.  The only other drivers in the Cup series that have as many wins as BK are Kyle Busch, with 4, and Kevin Harvick, with 3.  So unless Jeff Gordon or Matt Kenseth wins one or both of the next two races, Keselowski could start the Chase no lower than tied for second, ten points out of the points lead.

But those bonus points only go to drivers who rank in the top ten after the cutoff, and not the two wildcard drivers who make it in in 11th and 12th.  So Keselowski could be tied for the series lead in wins, and not get the bonus points for them if he doesn’t crack the top 10.

40 points is a lot of ground, almost a full race.  That’s not to say that he couldn’t make up 40 points and contend for the title anyway (especially as hot as he has been in the last month), but if he hopes to carry this momentum in and take advantage of this hot streak and these three wins, Brad has to jump Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart in the next two weeks.

Hamlin and Stewart are both really good at these last two tracks before the Chase, Atlanta and Richmond.  Keselowski’s crowning achievement at Atlanta is getting flipped on his lid by Carl Edwards, but with as well as that team is clicking, his history has to be thrown out the window at this point.

BK could still contend for the title if he doesn’t get into the top 10, as long as he can keep up this hot streak.  But getting in and starting the chase in the top 3 would make his road to a colossal upset that much easier.


Watkins Glen thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by Jordan Anders

So this is a little late in the week for a recap of the weekend that was, but the decision to hold off and run the thing on Monday turned out to be a grand slam for NASCAR (especially given the farce that was the Indycar race on Sunday). The Glen delivered, as it usually does, on excitement.

I was so stoked to see Marcos Ambrose finally get his first Cup win, especially after he had a sure-win taken away by a fuel conservation mistake at Sonoma last year. He went balls to the wall on that last restart to get by Brad Keselowski after Kyle Busch threw away the lead by blowing into the first turn on the Green-White-Checkered. So glad Ambrose was able to get redemption. Could not have happened to a better guy.

The day was punctuated by two vicious crashes: Denny Hamlin’s head-on romp into the tire barrier in turn one, and that wicked crash on the last lap involving David Reutimann and David Ragan. I didn’t place all the fault on Boris Said quite as clearly as everyone else, but I did agree with the consensus that the Glen, as entertaining as it is, is unbelievably outdated as far as safety goes. It was good to see Reutimann and Ragan walk away from one of the worst crashes I’ve ever seen, one that could have been at least a little less violent had there been SAFER barriers at Watkins Glen.

Overall, it was a very entertaining day in upstate NY, as the rain held off and the cream rose to the top of the field with the Aussie Ambrose taking the victory. Days like Monday are the reason that these road courses hold such novelty with fans, as they offer a great bit of change from the usual left turns. Monday was no different, as it delivered one of the most entertaining shows so far of 2011.

No race, no problem

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 14, 2011 by Jordan Anders

Trust me, I’m as disappointed as anyone that the Sprint Cup race from Watkins Glen was postponed until Monday, and stands a very good chance of being rained out even then.

But I would much rather sit and wait for a dry day than watch the Cup cars give it a shot in the rain, like many fans wanted to see on Sunday.

I remember being giddy when they decided to run the Nationwide cars in the rain at Montreal a couple of years back…and I also remember how that giddiness turned to repulsion as I witnessed the longest ten laps ever run, punctuated by half-laps of racing before guys were sliding off into the grass from the wet surface.

Just because they make the rain tires available don’t make them a good idea. Maybe in a Nationwide race, where the stakes aren’t quite as high. But Cup cars are just too heavy and too fickle to run in the wet, and, thankfully, NASCAR recognizes that.

So I will sit and wait, just as everyone else will have to do, for the Cup drivers to get on the (dry) course at the Glen and have at it, and save the rain tires for the sports cars and F1.

Who wants to have at it?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 9, 2011 by Jordan Anders

In a season filled with guys poking and prodding at this whole “Boys, have at it,” mantra, Sunday’s late-race tangle between Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch should have been the next great talking point.

Instead, what turned a little spicy on the racetrack became a little disappointing, and a lot petty, after the race.

Johnson and Busch tangled on the final lap of the race at Pocono Sunday, lightyears behind winner Brad Keselowski (see post below) and runner-up Kyle Busch.  What went down between turns 1 & 2 on the last lap was nothing short of good, hard “beatin’ and bangin'” that we NASCAR fans love so much, with the 22 and 48 cars leaning on each other, side by side.

There was nothing dirty or underhanded about it.  Busch made the move to the bottom of Johnson, and while each blamed the other for coming over and initiating the contact, I think it’s fair to say that both may have leaned in the opposite direction given the circumstances.

That was a very entertaining way to end what was a very long afternoon, but after the race, Johnson approached Busch (before he could get out of his car; I don’t care who you are, I’ve always viewed that as a bit of a puss move.  Let the guy get out first and do it nose-to-nose) and voiced his displeasure.

With what?

With the fact that two former Cup champions racing to the flag leaned on each other a bit?  With the fact that the left side of his race car got a little bent up?

Or with the fact that Busch got the spot and Johnson wound up fourth?

Regardless, what the hell are we arguing about here?  This is what the fans paid to see.  Busch said so after the race when he asked “why can’t we race each other like this and put on a show for the fans?”

My sentiments, exactly.

This was fun to watch.  Busch and Johnson leaning on each other, nothing dirty about it.  If Busch had hooked him or hung a dead right into Johnson’s door, maybe the five-time champ would have something to complain about.  He still finished fourth, and still sits second in the standings to Carl Edwards.

Then, Johnson mentioned how Busch had one coming, and how he was “filing this away.”  If memory serves, the last three times these two have tangled (including a year ago at this very track), it’s always been the 48 coming out on top, usually leaving Busch with wrecked race cars.

So, regardless of what Johnson thinks, this was good racing.  It’s the kind of battles that fans have been clamoring for, and have gotten more of as of late.  I usually like Jimmie Johnson, but he needs to man up, take the fact that he and Busch put on a good show and raced hard, accept that he got the short end of the stick this time, and go on.

Perhaps Busch summed it up perfectly after the race Sunday, when he yelled at Johnson “You just can’t stand to lose, can you?”

Johnson’s retort:  “No, I can’t.”

Iron Man Brad

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 9, 2011 by Jordan Anders

I hope Golden Tate was paying attention to Sunday’s rain-interrupted Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Less than a month ago, the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver took to Twitter to voice his disapproval of five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson being nominated for the ESPY award for Best Male Athlete.

He tweeted “Jimmy Johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo.. Driving a car does not show athleticism,” which he promptly followed up with several equally ignorant tweets, including how he had “driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90mph no big deal. No sign of athleticism.”

I guess the Associated Press named Johnson their Athlete of the Year in 2009 because they all shop at Lowe’s.

While Tate later backtracked on his remarks (after having his Twitter account blown up by offended NASCAR fans), it still brought back to light the lingering notion from the sport’s detractors that NASCAR drivers are not athletes.

Now, I’ve been a NASCAR fan for essentially all of my 21 years, having watched the sport even as an infant with my dad. Growing up, I spent a lot of time convincing a lot of ignorant people that the argument against NASCAR being a real sport, and drivers being athletes, is laughable at best and ludicrous at worst. And trust me, I’ve seen plenty of both.

Forget the fact that they sit for hours in cockpits that reach 140 degrees, or that they sweat off 10-15 pounds each race, or have to manhandle 3400-pound machines at 200 mph while feeling the weight of four Gs. It’s also apparently irrelevant that the majority of drivers train year-round to stay in shape to endure such conditions. But that’s another story entirely.

All this brings me to this past weekend, and Sunday’s race winner, Brad Keselowski.

Last Wednesday, Keselowski was testing his Sprint Cup car at a road course in Atlanta, Ga., when his brakes failed. His No. 2 car hit head on at over 100 mph into a concrete wall that was protected only by two rows of tire stacks.

Keselowski was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken left ankle, as well as a bruised right foot and injured back. But with a potential berth in the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup still within reach, he decided to suck it up and race on Sunday.

Most of us wouldn’t even dream of driving with a broken ankle. Not only did Keselowski race, he had to use his left foot to hit both the brakes and the clutch to shift around the triangle-shaped Pocono Raceway. In Sunday’s 200-lap event, that means he had to fight through the pain to hit the brakes 600 times with that broken left ankle, in addition to shifting six times each lap.

Oh, and that doesn’t include the last time he hit the brakes, to stop the car in Victory Lane after he won the race.

What makes the story all the more impressive, and what wasn’t revealed until later Sunday afternoon, was that during an hour-and-40-minute rain delay at lap 124, Keselowski had to have his back aligned by a chiropractor, and have blood drained from the swollen left ankle just to be able to continue.

Yeah, I know. Insane, right?

In no way is Keselowski the first driver to suit up injured. Dale Earnhardt won the pole position and finished sixth at Watkins Glen in 1996 while recovering from a broken sternum and collarbone. Denny Hamlin won at Texas last year just two weeks removed from having a torn ACL surgically repaired.

But what Brad Keselowski did on Sunday was almost super-human, and it should serve as a reminder to everyone, including Golden Tate, that not all athletes wear pads and a jersey.

Brickyard thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 by Jordan Anders

So the Brickyard has come and gone, and Paul Menard was the one laying the big kiss on the famous yard of bricks at Indianapolis.  Yesterday’s finish was entertaining enough, with Menard trying to stretch his gas tank to the end with a hard-charging Jeff Gordon bearing down on his bumper, trying to earn the right to plant his lips on the bricks for the fifth time.

It was a great finish, but I have to ask myself whether or not the ends justified the means this time.  Too many times this season we have seen great finishes bail out races that suffered from lackluster racing over the course of the entire race.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that, at times, the racing this season has been exponentially better than it has been in the last five seasons or more.  But yesterday was a prime example of how this aero package of this car just simply does not lend itself to passing on the high-speed tracks that make up the majority of the Sprint Cup schedule.

Yesterday had many examples.  Kasey Kahne sat on the front row and, for the first 50 laps, looked like the fastest machine in the state of Indiana.  Out front in that clean air, Kahne seemed to have the dominant car and looked destined to compete for the win.

But once Kahne got back in traffic after pit stops, Kahne was not able to make any headway at all, eventually finishing 18th and never being competitive again.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. led laps and ran third for a considerable part of the race, but once he lost track position on pit road and restarted tenth, he was never able to make any ground after that.  Kevin Harvick came on his radio after taking four tires and told his crew chief that he had passed absolutely no one on that run because he simply could not make moves back in traffic.

Carl Edwards pleaded with NASCAR a couple of months back to make some changes to this car and make it where the drivers has some say in making runs and passing cars.  Track position has become so paramount that it’s nearly impossible to make moves if you don’t have clean air.  Drivers can no longer drive to the front, even if they have a good car, because of the aero package on this car that makes clean air so important.  Until some changes are made, we’ll continue to see races like yesterday, which featured an exciting finish, but saw a glaring lack of action that could stifle the strides that NASCAR has made this season in trying to regain some of its popularity.