Friday, March 31, 2006
Thanks to loyal listener Ron Klein, Jr. for the AWESOME rendering of a "Sirius Speedway" Nextel Cup Ford Fusion!
Ron did the design, and his buddy "00stangGT" from mayoracingdesigns.net took care of the rendering.
Now if we could just get someone to spring for the real thing! Thanks again, guys!
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
It's official! Sirius Speedway host Dave "Mad Dog" Moody will serve as one of the guest Lumberjacks when Jeff Hammond and Hermie Sadler team-up with Bubba Ray and DeVon Dudley to take on Jeff Jarrett, Americas Most Wanted, and "Showtime" Eric Young in an eight-man Lumberjack Match as part of the TNA Wrestling card on Saturday night in Martinsville, Virginia.
Dave will join Kyle Petty, Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs, Michael Waltrip, and other NASCAR personalities in ensuring that none of the contestants escape the ring intact. We are relieved to report that he will perform his duties in street clothes, avoiding the unsettling possibility of seeing your favorite motorsports radio host in tights.
Moody commented on his new role, saying, "I know I'm supposed to be there in suppport of Jeff and Hermie. But if I get a chance, I might just bust Hammond in the lip for the fun of it. He's a good friend, but he's just too pretty. Somebody's gotta mess him up a little."
Moody also laid out his foolproof strategy for the event, saying, "If I see either of the 3-D boys coming my way, I'm heading for the exit. I know my limitations, and I have no desire to be thrown through a folding table!"
If you're in the area, check out the action Saturday night, at the old Lowes building across from the speedway. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. -- after the Craftsman Truck Series race -- with bell time set for 7:00 p.m. After the wrestling, country music star Don Cox will perform. TNA Wrestling is also offering a $5.00 discount for anyone displaying a Martinsville Speedway ticket stub, or a NASCAR license.
In the moments following a hard crash involving Martin Truex, Jr., Manion attempted to calm his angry driver by saying, "Don't ever give up on this team. We missed the set-up today, it was a piece of s--t. But don't ever give up on this team." Manion was unaware that his comments were being broadcast to a nationwide audience, and he certainly had no idea of the uproar that would result. Before FOX's broadcast had left the air, "American Family Association" President Donald E. Wildmon had already filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about Manion's verbiage. "Family Policy Network" President Joe Glover filed a virtually identical complaint, charging that “NASCAR and Fox Sports have a responsibility to keep profanity off of broadcast television, especially during daytime hours...when so many families are watching.”
I would be willing to bet this week's salary that neither Wildmon nor Glover heard Manion make the statement in question. In fact, I'm guessing neither gent would know a panhard bar if it hit him upside the head. (Not a bad idea, come to think of it, but I digress.) Within minutes, however, both organizations had posted official FCC Complaint Forms on their websites -- conveniently filled out in advance with all the pertinent information -- allowing their horrified minions to express their complete and total disgust with Manion's expletive; despite the fact that they had not, in fact, heard it.
We've had plenty of opportunities to discuss this topic on "Sirius Speedway" recently. In March of 2004, Johnny Sauter was fined $10,000 and docked 25 championship points for using "inappropriate language" in a broadcast interview at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In May of that year, Ron Hornaday received an identical sanction for using the same word during an MRN Radio interview at Dover. In October of 2004 -- in the most notorious instance so far -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost $10,000 and 25 points after unleashing his own "s-bomb" in a live TV interview at Talladega. And in March of last year, Shane Hmiel was fined $10,000 for "flipping the bird" at Dale Jarrett, an act caught and broadcast to the world by Hmiel's own FX in-car camera.
Every time this situation arises, the same points get made.
1) A family should be able to watch the race together on Sunday afternoon without having to explain to little Johnny what "that word" means.
2) In many homes, Mom and Dad use words MUCH worse than Dale Junior's, and the language on the average elementary school playground is often enough to make a longshoreman blush.
3) People get defensive when a bunch of Bible-thumping, right-wing, religeous zealots attack their favorite sport, especially when the zealots in question know very little about the sport.I understand and agree with all those points, and I'm as adverse as anyone to being preached at by groups like the American Family Association and the Family Policy Network. But the bottom line -- as I see it -- is this. It's my decision whether or not to expose my kids to salty language, and NASCAR (and its broadcast partners) should do absolutely everything in their collective power to ensure that it remains MY decision. Not Bono Manion's, not Ron Hornaday's, and not Dale Junior's.
I believe more can be done to prevent situations like what happened Sunday. When Ron Hornaday's blooper hit the MRN airwaves back in 2004, the network reacted quickly, instituting a seven-second delay on all broadcasts from that point forward. The network did so to protect its affiliates from the threat of FCC fines. They also did it because it was the right thing to do. Many of NASCAR's TV partners have instituted similar delays, ensuring that offensive language cannot get on the air. Others, however, have declined to do so, for reasons I cannot fathom.
NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter said yesterday that a technical malfunction in the FOX production trailer allowed Manion's comments to reach the airwaves Sunday, adding, "They assure us they're looking at ways to make sure it doesn't reoccur.”
"Bono" Manion was an innocent victim in all this. He will not be fined or sanctioned by NASCAR, and he is owed an apology by FOX Sports. But NASCAR can (and should) do more, mandating that all its TV and radio partners institute a seven-second delay on all broadcasts, effective immediately.
That's the only way we'll ever get The Thought Police out of our business.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The latest example of this fact is the recent announcement that Hammond and Hermie Sadler will climb into the ring Saturday night in Martinsville, taking part in an eight-man “Lumberjack Match” with Team 3-D (formerly the Dudley Boys), taking on five-time NWA Champion Jeff Jarrett, Americas Most Wanted, and "Showtime" Eric Young.
Hermie has competed on a few wrestling cards in the past. The real rasslers love him, because he's small enough to fly 4-5 rows deep into the crowd when they toss him over the top rope. Hammond, meanwhile, is a lifelong wrestling fan who apparently thinks it'll be fun to get the snot knocked out of him in front of all his friends. Darrell Waltrip will serve as Honorary Ring Announcer for the match, while Kyle Petty, Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs, Michael Waltrip, and other NASCAR personalities serve as “Lumberjacks,” patrolling the ringside area to prevent the contestants from escaping.
I've been a wrestling fan since I was a kid. We used to go to matches at the Burlington (VT) Memorial Auditorium, and I met Andre the Giant once when I was about seven years old. He was -- quite literally -- larger than life. Yeah, I know it's all scripted, but I don't care. I respect the athletic ability required to take the ferocious bumps those guys take, and walk away with life and limb intact. Besides, it's great entertainment. I think I'll pop over to the Old Lowes Building --across the street from the Speedway -- after Saturday's Craftsman Truck Series race and check it out.
I wonder if they need any more Lumberjacks?!?
Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch moved Matt Kenseth up the racetrack and took the lead with four laps remaining; a lead he held to the finish. The "bump and run" is as time-honored at Bristol as the two-tire pitstop, and Busch is hardly the first to use it. Dale Earnhardt bodyslammed Terry Labonte out of the lead TWICE in his storied Bristol career, while Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and many others have made judicious use of their front bumpers en route to Victory Lane at Thunder Valley over the years.
And yet, when Kurt Busch did it, people lost their minds.
Kenseth reacted angrily after the race, saying, “He knocked me out of the way. If he had a run on me and had me beat, that would have been OK. But he drove extra hard and knocked me out of the way. I thought it was a cheap shot." Keep in mind, this is the same Matt Kenseth who spun Jeff Gordon out just three laps later to retake second place.
For those keeping score, bumping is a "cheap shot," according to Kenseth, while dumping is not. It's all a matter of perspective.
Now, let's play a game of "musical numbers." Had Dale Earnhardt, Jr., knocked Kenseth out of the way to take the lead Sunday, the Bristol grandstands would have been delirious with glee. And yet, when Busch did it, the fans were ready to have him tarred and feathered. When Tony Stewart does the "Boot, Scoot and Boogie," he's a dirty driving SOB. When Jimmy Spencer does it, well, that's just Jimmy bein' Jimmy.
Again, it's all about perspective.
We get lots of calls on Mondays after a race at Bristol. And usually, I can tell where each caller's allegiance lies within the first 60 seconds of the conversation. Some callers declare their loyalty right up front, saying, "I'm a (insert name of driver here) fan, and here's what I think..." Others keep their loyalty closer to the vest. But more often than not, if a caller is absolutely irate about an on-track indiscretion, chances are the offense occured at the expense of his/her favorite driver.
Kurt Busch has obviously caused a lot of his own public relations headaches, both within the NASCAR garage, and with the fans. As a result, people chastise him for conduct that they would likely overlook in others. Sunday's race was a perfect case in point. So the next time you're all fired-up and ready to unload on one of NASCAR's resident "Bad Boys," take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Would I be this angry if MY driver had done that?"
If the answer is `no,' you've just gotten another lesson in perspective.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Just hours after the crash, Open Wheel analyst Robin Miller penned a column for SPEEDTV.com entitled, "The Sad, Cold Truth." In that column, Miller wrote, "With all due respect to the deceased and his family, Paul Dana was in over his head; the victim of a system where people have been buying rides at the highest level for more than 25 years. Dana...lost his life here Sunday morning in an accident that more or less confirmed he was out of his depth at 200 mph."
I have a great deal of respect for Robin Miller. He is unquestionably one of the top Open Wheel reporters in the business, and his knowledge of the sport and the people in it are beyond reproach. In this case, however, his desire to be right has overridden his sense of common decency.
Miller correctly points out that in this sport, it takes money to compete. Lots and lots of money. He calls it the "Walter Mitty scenario," wherein a relative novice is able to compete in a professional sport, based on nothing more than the ability to finance their own ride. I fell in love with racing at a very young age, and often dreamed of becoming a championship driver myself. The cold, hard realities of life soon asserted themselves, however, forcing me to accept that I was never going to challenge "King" Richard Petty's 200 career NASCAR wins. I simply didn't have the talent.
If my father had 10 million dollars in the bank, I might have been able to ignore that fact for a few more years. And perhaps, with a little luck, I might have made it to NASCAR Nextel Cup racing, in spite of myself. There are enough Buckshot Jones stories out there to keep hope alive, at least.
Motorsports is the only game in town where a kid can buy his way onto the roster; with or without an abundance of talent. Miller clearly believes Dana to be an example of this, writing, "Dana didn't replace Vitor Meira on Rahal's team because he was a better driver, he simply brought money, in the form of sponsor Ethanol. (He) certainly wasn't the first or the worst to buy his way into an Indy car. We've seen Patrick Bedard, Dale Whittington, Jack Miller, Paul Jasper, Dennis Vitolo, Randy Lewis, Lyn St, James .... there's a long list of people who were much better at marketing than they were at driving."
This phenomenon is certainly not unique to the Indy Racing League. It happens on the rival Champ Car World Series, and it happens in NASCAR. It happens just about everywhere in motorsports, and there's nothing Robin Miller and I can do or say to change it. Which is what troubles me most about this mad rush to judgement on Paul Dana.
Dana climbed the ladder to the top of the Open Wheel Racing world, and he did so appropriately. Most recently, he won a pole and a race on the IRL Infinity Pro Series, the Triple-A league for aspiring Indy Car drivers. Did the lucrative backing of Ethanol -- and the willingness of Bobby Rahal to use that backing to put him behind the wheel of an Indy Car -- lead directly to Dana's death?
Quite possibly. But what's the point? Even Miller admits that Sunday's tragedy was unavoidable, given the current state of affairs in Open Wheel racing.
Bobby Rahal has second-guessed his decision a million times by now. Dana's widow, Tonya, has suffered through the first of many sleepless nights, wishing she could have talked her husband out of his lifelong dream. Everyone associated with Paul Dana or Rahal-Letterman Racing has spent the last 24 hours looking back, wondering if there was something they could have said or done to save his life.
The answer, of course, is `no.'
It's cliche' to say that Paul Dana died doing what he loved. But it's also true. There will be plenty of time to analyze what happened Sunday, and plenty of time to second guess. Right now, let's avoid the urge to assign blame in favor of something more worthwhile; supporting those who are left behind.
Rest in Peace, Paul Dana.
Friday, March 24, 2006
IRL owner Tony George broke his long silence Friday, acknowledging the cat that Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalhoven let out of the bag weeks ago; that they are negotiating to reunite the rival sanctioning bodies. George, who talks to the media as often (and as willingly) as Paris Hilton wears turtlenecks, confirmed that he and Kalkhoven have been talking about reunification for two or three months now, and that if all goes well, it could happen within the next 12-18 months.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner gave no details on exactly what is being discussed, but it is clear from his remarks that both he and Kalkhoven realize the current state of Open Wheel racing cannot continue for much longer. That's good news for any Open Wheel fan, regardless of whether you prefer Champ Car or IRL.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that two good racing series could combine to form one tremendous circuit. Imagine Sebastien Bourdais and Dan Wheldon running wheel-to-wheel with a lap to go, followed closely by Sam Hornish, Jr., Paul Tracy, Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick and Katharine Legge (to name just a few), and you've got a scenario that would put paying customers back in the IRL/Champ Car grandstands again. It would fill the field at the Indianapolis 500 with at least two-dozen bonafide contenders, rather than 10 potential winners and a patched-together field of also-rans and phantoms. Best of all, it would make Open Wheel racing matter again, for the first time in decades.
In the early 1970s, CART stood head-and shoulders above NASCAR in terms of interest and prestige. The Indianapolis 500 was the only race of real national consequence, and when you asked a non-racer to describe what a racecar looked like, he or she almost always described an Indy Car. That has all changed. CART is long gone, victim of shoddy management and collossal ego. In its place stand Champ Car and the Indy Racing League; two circuits jam-packed with people seeemingly incapable of seeing their own faults, but all too willing to bash the shortcomings of the opposition. IRL and CART have spent years fiddling while their respective Romes burned, while NASCAR hustled its way to the top of the American motorsports ladder.
They won't be displaced anytime soon. Heck, NASCAR won't be displaced, period.
But a reunited Open Wheel series can give North American motorsports fans something else to get excited about. It can provide an alternative to the full-fendered stock car wars, and fill what has become a gaping void in American motorsports.
Putting Humpty Dumpty together again will not be easy. There are major differences between the two series; differences in engines, chassis, tires, series sponsors and TV broadcast packages, just to name a few of the major stumbling points. But the fundamental differences in philosophy seem to be falling by the wayside, at long last. George and Kalkhoven both have sufficient personal wealth to play "my way or the highway" for the rest of their lives, so long as they don't mind taking Open Wheel racing to the graveyard with them. Now, it seems they have finally seen the error of their ways, and begun the process of saving the sport.
I wish them luck.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
It didn't work.
For those unfamiliar with the whole, tawdry story, the four-time NHRA World Champion has been a frequent and familiar guest on "Sirius Speedway," cracking jokes, telling lies, and generally fitting in well with the rest of the Crew. We, in return, served as his personal psychiatrists through most of last season; bolstering his spirits in the down times (of which there were many) and celebrating with him in the good times. Truth be told, Scelzi would never have won the 2006 Funny Car title without us. His psyche was so fragile, his confidence so shaken at times, that without our constant encouragement, he would have folded faster than a set of Motel 6 sheets.
And what did we get for that unflinching support?
The back of Scelzi's hand.
Last Thursday, Scelzi slinked across the street to our direct competitor; Bubba The Contraceptive Sponge. Yes, Bubba's a member of the Sirius Satellite Radio family, just like us. But his show airs opposite ours, and the bottom line is that if you're listening to him, you're not listening to us. We take that kind of thing seriously, so imagine our displeasure on Monday when, within the first 10 minutes of the show, the phone lines lit up with reports of his indiscretion.
At first, it didn't seem like that big a deal. But the more I thought about it, the madder I got. It's kind of like going away for the weekend, then coming home to find your wife in bed with your next-door neighbor. So I did what any self-respecting radio host would do. I banned his butt from the show. Forever. And a day.
Fan support for the move was overwhelming. A few misguided souls pleaded for mercy on his behalf, saying that since we were on vacation that day and running a "Best Of Sirius Speedway" program, he hadn't really cheated on us. Those were the callers that got hung up on.
Wednesday, the Big Meatball came crawling back, as we all knew he would. At first, he tried to blame his treachery on his sponsors, claiming that Mopar had forced him to appear on BTCS's show. That went over like gas at Sunday Mass, and after humoring him for a few moments, I basically threw him off our airwaves...again. That's where it stood, until Pentastar fanatic (and former Scelzi fan) Mopar Ken phoned with a compromise. His suggestion was so good, so creative, that I agreed to allow Scelzi back, so long as he follows Ken's instructions to the letter.
So here's the deal, Gary. At 12 noon on Saturday, April 1, 2006 -- qualifying day at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park -- you, Gary Scelzi, will walk up to the John Force Racing souvenir trailer and purchase (with your own money) three 1:24 scale diecast collectible models of Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car. You will then take those diecast collectibles to Force himself, to have them personally autographed for each of us, with the following inscription...
Suzy would like "XXOO" added to hers. Marty and I will pass on the Xs and Os. You will then personally deliver the diecasts to us in the opulent MRN Radio studios, during the show.
Those are our demands. Fulfill them, and you wil be allowed back on the program, assuming you ever again do anything on the racetrack worthy of talking about. Omit even the tiniest detail, and you and your buddy the Sponge can spend the rest of your wretched little lives together.
It's your call.
Like when we're leaving the racetrack (late for the airport, as always) and some drunk decides that the road is a sidewalk. My MRN colleagues will attest that I have been known to yell, "Get outta the road, Cletus," when somebody REALLY needs to hear it. On the other hand, the full-scale, drunken brawl that took place across the hood of our rental car at Phoenix last year served as a wonderful “time filler” for pit reporter Steve Post and I. We had pulled over to the side of the road to await the arrival of co-anchor Joe Moore, when two relatively intoxicated gents bumped into each other while taking part in the weekly post-race cattle stampede. One thing led to another, and before long, a group of 10-12 people was throwing haymakers at each other, without really understanding why. Two rather rotund fellows rolled completely across the hood of our car, prompting Postman to remark, “What the hell, it’s a rental.” The highlight came when the women jumped into the fray; pulling hair, slapping, tearing at clothes…it was wonderful. Eventually, as is always the case, fatigue set in and the brawl subsided. As the combatants began gathering up their coolers, seat cushions and teeth, one of the women knocked politely on Postman’s window and asked,” Would you mind backing up a little? One of my beers rolled under your car.” You can’t make that stuff up.
I also have a raw nerve for fans that go running through the Nextel Cup garage at 107 mph -- bouncing off people the whole way – just because Dale Junior peeked out the door of his transporter. If you ask me, nobody with a cardboard camera should be allowed into the garage in the first place, nor should the eBay professional with his alphabetized file envelope full of pictures to get autographed. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
I have problems with local, public-access cable TV hosts that interrupt my interviews to ask a driver, "What's your favorite racetrack," and media members that barge in on pre-arranged, one-on-one interviews to ask their own inane questions that have nothing to do with what was being discussed. I will demonstrate my remarkable restraint by not naming any names here.
I also have a hard time with fans that say, "(Insert name of driver here) is an a-hole, because he wouldn't stop to sign my wife's breast at Pocono three years ago." The driver’s meeting starts in three minutes, buddy. Your wife’s boobies will just have to wait.
I have worked as a racetrack pubic address announcer for decades, and some of my favorite “pet peeves” come from things that have happened to me in that capacity. I just love entry-level racers who storm the control tower to raise hell after being put to the rear of the field for dumping five cars in the first three laps of their career. It's a giant conspiracy, don'tcha know?And there’s nothing better than the guy who expects the PA announcer to remember the winning 50/50 number, 20 minutes after it was called (and 18 minutes after the winner collected his money), because, "I was in the crapper, but my buddy says I won."
Rain delays are the worst. Without fail, someone will come to the tower and ask, “Are you going to get the race in?” I politely respond, “It depends. If it stops raining, we’ve got a good shot.”
The next person in line has a simpler question, asking, “Is it gonna stop raining?” My standard response is, “It always has. The previous record is 40 days and 40 nights, but I don’t think we’re in danger of anything that drastic tonight.” I know you’re genuinely curious and concerned, but Jeez Louise people, I’m an announcer, not a meteorologist!
And finally, when there’s a Category Four thunderstorm heading straight for the speedway, and the announcer advises you to seek shelter in your car or under the grandstands, DO IT! The fact that your seat just got wet won’t seem nearly as important after a 70,000-volt lightning strike to the top of your skull.
Thanks for listening. I feel much better now.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Ever since the new Dodge Charger made its NASCAR debut at the beginning of last season, many in the Daimler-Chrysler camp have spent more time complaining about its faults than working to correct them. During Speedweeks 2005, Dodge teams complained about the large amounts of trash collected by the Charger's expansive front grille; trash that inevitably caused overheating problems and engine failure. They imediately began lobbying NASCAR to approve a new nose for the car, apparently forgetting that they had submitted the offending part for approval just a few months before. Worse, Daimler-Chrysler then submitted a revised nose so aerodynamically superior that NASCAR immediately gave it the "thumbs down."
Since then, the Dodge Boys have complained loud and long about the Charger's alleged aerodynamic inadequacy, especially on 1.5 and two-mile tracks where downforce is king and "aero push" is a four-letter word. Instead of working to solve the problem, however, some Dodge teams have chosen to close their eyes to the situation. Penske Racing South has fielded old-style Dodge Intrepids for much of this season, proclaiming them to be superior to the Charger. Their on-track results have done nothing to bear that out, with Ryan Newman currently 17th in points, and teammate Kurt Busch mired way down in 27th.
Dodge no longer sells Intrepids on the showroom floor, and Director of Motorsports Operations John Fernandez admitted in an exclusive "Sirius Speedway" interview last week that the German automaker is not thrilled with the idea of having an outdated make on the racetrack every Sunday. "Ideally," he said, "we would like to see everyone running the Dodge Charger. We are continuing to work to find a solution to the problems, and we believe we are on the right track."
Fernandez also said Dodge could order Penske Racing South to park the Intrepids, saying, "They are a factory backed team, and it is conceivable that we could do that."
This week, they finally did.
Penske Racing South President Don Miller said Monday that Dodge has informed the team that it will no longer be authorized to run the Dodge Intrepid after the April 9th Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. That same day, Evernham repeated his now-familiar complaint about the lack of teamwork in the Dodge camp, saying Dodge's original "one-team" approach to Nextel Cup racing has become disjointed and disorganized. "Right now, I don’t think we are going to NASCAR (for a rule change)," he said. "We have to get the cars better ourselves. Right now, it’s on us. We’ve got equipment. We’ve got resources, and we’ve just got to keep making the cars and motors better on our own."
Kasey Kahne -- who drove one of Evernham's Chargers to Victory Lane Monday at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway -- agreed, saying, "I think what we have with the Charger is a very sensitive car. We know what it wants in terms of a set-up, but if we're off by even a little bit, the car becomes very temperamental. We're working hard to fix that, and I think we're well on our way."
The way I see it, every day Roger Penske spends trying to make the Dodge Intrepid faster is a day longer that it will take to fix the Dodge Charger. Daimler-Chrysler's "scrap the Intrepid" edict is a step in the right direction, but it may not be enough. In fact, some in the Nextel Cup garage question Penske's interest in perfecting the Charger, at all.
With Toyota poised to join the upper levels of NASCAR next season, there has been widespread speculation that the Japanese automaker will make a major push to add Penske Racng South to its Nextel Cup lineup. Penske and Toyota have a long and successful history in Open Wheel racing, and while Kevin Harvick (still rumored), Bill Davis and Michael Waltrip will make fine additions to the 2007 Toyota roster, a top team like Penske's will almost certainly receive an attractive offer to bolt to the Toyota camp.
Perhaps "The Captain" is hedging his bet, declining to do Research and Development work on a car that he may be competing against next season. Or perhaps -- despite all eveidence to the contrary -- he truly believes the Intrepid to be a superior racecar. No matter what, Penske Racing South will be forced to begin toeing the company line at Texas next month.
Until then, it's time for the Dodge Boys to quit bitchin' and start pitchin' in.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Angelle's 38th career victory provided a little more daylight between her and the rest of the world in the battle for "Winningest Female Racer of All Time." She now has an incredible raceday record of 303-98; good for a 76% win ratio. She is tied for #9 on the NHRA All-Time Wins list with Larry Dixon, and is within seven victories of displacing the legendary Dave Schultz as the winningest rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle history.
All that, plus ripped abs, major pythons and a cute little belly ring; the girl has got it going ON!
Troxel's bid for her second Top Fuel win in three starts went up in smoke at the 100-foot mark, allowing "Aussie Dave" Grubnic to limp home in 4.943 seconds at 317.90 mph. Grubbie's win came on the same weekend that Strivectin/SD team spokesperson Shirley Muldowney was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame; a fitting end for the "Leading Lady" of drag racing. Despite her loss to Grubnic, Troxel still holds the Top Fuel point lead by 73 over "Hot Rod" Fuller.
Enders, meanwhile, continues to be one of the biggest stories of the NHRA PowerAde season to date. Her "Slammers Ultimate Milk" Chevy Cobalt was only slightly above-average Sunday, but she cut a series of killer lights to take holeshot wins over Jason Line and "Tricky Ricky" Smith en route to the finals. A massive case of tire shake doomed her in the money round, but she is up to third in the NHRA PowerAde Championship chase, 89 points behind three-time and defending series champion Greg Anderson, and just 75 back of Warren Johnson. Is there any doubt that Enders will become the first woman to win a Pro Stock race within the next few weeks?
With Troxel, Sampey, Enders and others -- like former Pro Stock bike winner Karen Stoffer and Sunday's Top Alcohol Dragster winner, Ashley Force -- leading the way, the NHRA PowerAde Drag Racing Series is looking more and more like a male chauvinist pig's ultimate nightmare!
You go, girls!
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Bobby Hamilton announced Friday that he has been diagnosed with cancer. He had a malignant tumor removed from his neck on February 8th, and will begin radiation and chemotherapy Monday at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Ironically, the cancer was discovered when Hamilton sought treatment for an inflamed wisdom tooth late last year. While the infection was quickly cured, a swelling in Hamilton’s neck remained, prompting doctors to begin a series of tests that ultimately led to Friday’s announcement.
The entire Hamilton family – Bobby, Bobby Junior, and Junior's wife, Stephanie – are frequent guests on “Sirius Speedway.” Even baby Haylie has made an on-air appearance, cooing in momma's arms during an in-studio visit in February of 2005. We love them because they’re old-time racers in every sense of the word, and also because they’re straight shooters. If you’re a friend, the Hamiltons will walk through fire for you. And if you are unlucky enough to get on their bad side…well… let’s just say that’s not a comfortable place to be.
In a sport where it’s virtually impossible to keep a secret, Hamilton’s situation remained under wraps for weeks. A small circle of family, friends and fellow competitors knew what was going on, but as far as the general public is concerned, Friday’s announcement was a genuine shock. After initially considering racing his way through radiation and chemotherapy, Hamilton wisely decided to focus on what matters most; getting well. He stepped out of his Fastenal Dodge after a 12th place finish at Atlanta Friday night and handed the keys to Bobby Junior, entrusting the family business to his son while he prepares for the biggest fight of his life.
Make no mistake about it, Bobby Hamilton is a born fighter. He’s been on his own since the tender age of 13, growing up on the mean streets and battling his way to the top of a sport that cut him very few breaks along the way. It was never easy, but Hamilton’s pit-bull ferocity made quitting an impossibility. He has stood up to every challenge along the way, just like he’ll stand up to cancer in the coming weeks.
In typical Hamilton fashion, he asks for no sympathy.
“Don’t call me a cancer victim,” said Hamilton Friday. “I’m a survivor, not a victim. There are millions of Americans affected every day by cancer, and I want to help by being another voice in the push for a cure.”
He will be that, and much, much more.
Thinking about the Hamilton family this week, it occurs to me that everything happens for a reason. Bobby Junior’s off-season release from PPI Motorsports was contentious, to say the least, and left scars that will be long in healing. But while Cal Wells probably won’t be getting a Christmas card from the Hamiltons this December, how fortunate is it that Junior is now available to step-in and pick up the pieces for his Dad, allowing Bobby to focus on his own health, without worrying about the health of his race team?
Like I said, somebody up there has a plan, and no matter how this story ends, it will be according to that plan. Cancer is no longer the death sentence it was even a decade ago. Hundreds of thousands of survivors can attest to that fact, nationwide. And if anyone is qualified to spit straight into the “Big C’s” eye, it’s Big Bobby.
Cancer doesn’t know what it has gotten itself into this time
“I will be back, and I am not quitting,” said Hamilton Friday. “I am not that damn weak.”
Go get `em, Bobby.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Bill Lester will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s “Golden Corral 500” at Atlanta Motor Speedway, hoping to become the first African-American driver since Willy T. Ribbs in 1986 to race on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. The fact that it’s been two decades since a black man took the green flag in NASCAR’s premier division is sad. The fact that today – 20 years later – there is still just one black man at the upper levels of NASCAR is sadder still.
To a point, Lester is correct when he says, “It’s not about race, it’s about racing.” But until NASCAR succeeds in recruiting more minorities into its ranks, people like Lester and Erin Crocker will continue to attract more than their share of attention. And judging by some of the on-air reaction we get to stories like Bill’s, there is still plenty of work to do.
Earlier this week, after Lester announced plans to race in Atlanta, I spoke about the continuing dearth of minorities in NASCAR. Within minutes, a caller commented that he believes NASCAR should remain a “white man’s sport,” just like the NBA was a “black man’s sport.” I have been criticized in the past for allowing racists and bigots to have their say on our airwaves. I have defended this practice, though, believing that the best way to expose a fool is to let him speak. And the more this man spoke, the more discouraged I became about some of the people that call this sport their own.
It has become clear to me in three years hosting “Sirius Speedway” that NASCAR’s image as a lily-white sport, intermittently sprinkled with racists is not entirely undeserved. Listen to what some of our callers have to say on this matter; look out over the sea of Confederate Flags in the infield at Talladega, Richmond, or even Pocono; search the grandstands for the occasional black face, and you’ll see what I mean.
The bigots may be in the minority, but they're out there.
I interviewed Greg Moore of blackathlete.net on the program this week; an intelligent, reasonable, far-sighted man who sees NASCAR as the next great sporting opportunity for women, and people of color. He wondered -- as do I -- how long it will take for NASCAR’s "Drive For Diversity" to have any real effect on the sport, and he wondered how we begin to make NASCAR a realistic and appealing option for minority youths. He lamented what he called today’s “microwave society,” where everyone wants instantaneous solutions to the most complex problems, realizing that no matter how much we might want it to happen -- right here and right now -- the diversification of NASCAR is still some time away.
The key to the deal, in my opinion, is the children. While NASCAR should be applauded for creating opportunities for minority drivers and crewmembers through its “Drive For Diversity,” I feel the first step is much more simple. Somehow, NASCAR – and IRL, Champ Car, and the NHRA, for that matter – need to get their events into the living rooms of minority families. If Mom and Dad aren’t interested in motorsports, the odds of Junior getting “hooked” are astronomically long. But if the race is on in their living room every Sunday – just the way the NBA is on Saturday night – racing has a chance to capture the hearts and minds of America’s minority youth.
I am hopeful that a certain percentage of the minority community will tune-in Sunday to watch Bill Lester do what he does best. And maybe…just maybe…a few little boys and girls will be drawn to the noise and drama and color of stock car racing, just like I was when I was young.
That’s when the real progress will begin.
Welcome, everyone, to "The Motorsports Soapbox." This blog was created in response to repeated requests by our "Sirius Speedway" listeners for a place to go for more information on the show, photos of the "Sirius Speedway" pit crew, and more on the thoughts and opinions expressed on the show.
I thought a good way to start would be to answer a few "Frequently Asked Questions" about the show:
Q: "When and where can I hear 'Sirius Speedway'?"
A: Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Sirius Sports 123, with periodic late night re-broadcasts, as well. Visit www.Sirius.com for exact times and dates of replays.
Q: "How do I get on the show?"
A: The "Sirius Speedway" listener line is toll-free and nationwide, at 866-PIT-LANE -- that's 866-748-5263. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I personally read every e-mail and respond to most, though time constraints prevent me from replying in person to everything we receive.
Q:"What topics are off-limits on the show?"
A: Within the bounds of good taste...none. We're not "The Howard Stern Show" (not that there's anything wrong with that, we LOVE Howard), but as long as you keep it clean and stay on topic, your opinion is welcome.
Q: How come you guys don't talk about my favorite track or series?
A: We talk about what our listeners are most interested in. While your local track may be of great interest to YOU, it's not necessarily spellbinding for the rest of the nationwide audience. As a result, we generally confine our conversations to national series with strong fan followings.
Q: "Can I get an autographed picture?"
A: Presently, no. We're working on it, but for now, you'll have to content yourselves with the photos here on the blog. I'll post more from time to time.
Q: "What's the deal with `The Stretch Drive?'"
A: I have no earthly idea. Back in the show's infancy, I thought it would be a good idea to make the final segment of the day a smorgasbord; letting the listeners steer the ship and take us wherever they wanted to go. And despite Marty's constant complaining, it remains that way today. Call me crazy.
Q: "Is Suzy Q. as hot in person as she sounds on the radio?"
A: No comment. I have to work with the woman.
OK, that's it for my first posting. Check back from time to time for updates, and I'll try to post on a semi-daily basis. And on behalf of everyone at "Sirius Speedway," thanks for listening, `Dogs. We couldn't do it without you.
Hermie Sadler puts the mitts to Jarrett during their match in Martinsville, Virginia. Sadler eventually got the pin over Jarrett to win the match.
Jeff Jarrett makes nice with Dave and Jeff Hammond prior to their Eight-Man Lumberjack Match. Once the bell rang, things got a little less friendly.
Dave hangs out with two-time NWA Tag Team champions "The Naturals;" Chase Stevens (L) and Andy Douglas in Martinsville, Va.
Dave compares "guns" with TNA Wrestling star Rhyno. Rhyno wins!
Dave gets the scoop from former NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Bobby Labonte.
Dave Moody, proud to be the "Official Pastry Gopher" of a very pregnant Stephanie Hamilton.
Four-time NHRA PowerAde World Champion Gary "Wild Thing" Scelzi, with Suzy Q. and their Love Child, "Little Scelzi," at the 2005 Gatornationals in Ganesville, Florida.
Dave, Marty and Suzy Q. help Steve Johnson celebrate his NHRA Pro Stock Bike win in the 2005 Gatornationals.
"Sirius Speedway," broadcasting live from the 2005 New York International Auto Show.
Dave and Marty spend some quality time with the Brut Girls!
Marty gets the scoop from Indy Racing League phenom Danica Patrick during the 2005 "Rolex 24 at Daytona."
"Trouble in Turn One!" -- In addition to his weekday role as host of "Sirius Speedway," Dave also calls the action each weekend as lead turn announcer for MRN Radio.
The "Sirius Speedway" Pit Crew hangs out with Don Schumacher Racing teammates Gary Scelzi (L) and Ron Capps at Pomona in 2005.
Dave with one of drag racing's all-time greats, the legendary Shirley Muldowney.
Dave takes in the action from high atop his billboard at New Hampshire Int'' Speedway.
Marty "The Party" Hough prepares for an evening cocktail at Gateway International Raceway.