Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Walker Suspended By NASCAR

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Tyler Walker was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR yesterday, after violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy.

Walker, who drives the #36 Toyota Tundra for Bill Davis Racing, was found to have violated Section 12-4-A of the NASCAR rulebook (actions detrimental to stock car racing), as well as Section 12-4-E (failure to comply with the NASCAR Substance Abuse Policy).

He becomes the third driver sanctioned by NASCAR for substance abuse, joining Shane Hmiel and Kevin Grubb. Both Hmiel and Grubb remain on NASCAR’s “indefinite suspension” list, after being readmitted by the sanctioning body, only to re-offend. Bill Davis reacted quickly to NASCAR's announcement, saying, "We agree with the vigilance that NASCAR is taking in this instance. We also have a zero tolerance substance abuse policy at Bill Davis Racing, and will take the appropriate action concerning Tyler’s future status with our company."

There will be little sympathy in the NASCAR garage for Walker. Like Hmiel and Grubb before him, the former World of Outlaws Gumout Series champion will be seen as a supremely talented racer who chose drugs over a promising NASCAR career. It’s easy to pass judgement when someone flushes that career – and millions of dollars in potential earnings – down the drain.

The truth, however, is considerably more complex.

Millions of people in this country have lost jobs, homes, marriages and families to drugs. It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to stop.” If it were, everyone would make the logical choice to lay down the pot pipe, the coke spoon, or the syringe.

I will resist the urge to condemn Tyler Walker -- just as I did with Hmiel and Grubb – and I urge you to do the same. Blame is useless, and criticism does no good. Instead, let’s devote our energy to praying for Tyler Walker’s speedy return to NASCAR.

Hopefully, he can succeed where Hmiel and Grubb failed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Charting The Earnhardt Derby: Gibbs' Stock Falls, Ginn On The Rise

Joe Gibbs said last night that if Dale Earnhardt, Jr., joins his team next season, it will have to be without his longtime sponsor, Budweiser.

"For me personally, (with) my background and everything that has happened to me, it wouldn't fit me," said Gibbs at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It doesn't mean it's not fine for everybody else."

There are other stumbling blocks to an Earnhardt-Gibs partnership, as well. Team spokesmen say the longtime Washington Redskins coach has no interest in expanding to four teams next season, meaning that one of his three current drivers would have to be released. Two-time Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart is considered untouchable, and 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Denny Hamlin is not going anywhere, either. That leaves former USAC star J.J. Yeley, who coincidentally is in the final year of his contract with JGR.

Team President J.D. Gibbs stopped short of saying Yeley’s job is in jeopardy, but made it clear that he wants more out of Yeley than his current 20th-place points standing. "We have invested in J.J. for years, and for him to be successful would be awesome. Nobody wants to see J.J. succeed more than we do. We went to J.J. and said, 'No matter what happens, if we go out there and we run well together, you're here forever.'"

With both Gibbs and Hendrick Motorsports now presumed to be out of the Earnhardt Derby, increased attention is being focused on the two remaining contenders; Richard Childress and Bobby Ginn. Childress said recently that he has not spoken with Earnhardt since Junior’s recent announcement that he will leave Dale Earnhardt, Inc., at the end of the season. He told reporters yesterday that he will expand to four cars next season; with or without Earnhardt.

"Our plan was to always be at four next season,” said Childress. “That's something we had in the works way before Junior became available. Who knows who will drive it? I might just have to dust off my helmet."

Ginn has pursued NASCAR’s most popular driver more openly, announcing plans of his own to expand to four teams next season, and having what he called, "exploratory conversations" with Kelley Earnhardt Elledge. Ginn Racing General Manager Jay Frye has longstanding ties with Anheuser-Busch (parent company of Budweiser), and yesterday, Ginn made it clear that he is serious about adding Earnhardt to his stable.

"If I had no ability to do it, I wouldn't have embarrassed myself or wasted his time," he said. "I believe he wants to win, and I want to win. You put two people together that are damned determined to get there, (and) that's a combination that has generally led to success. You can build great cars and have great teams, but you've got to have that spark plug.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Teresa Earnhardt Owns 100-Percent Of DEI

Published reports today say that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s demand for a 51% stake in Dale Earnhardt Inc. was not as reasonable as many assumed. In fact, it appears that Junior and his siblings; Kerry, Kelley and Taylor, presently have no ownership stake in the company, at all.

In fact, Dale Earnhardt’s will -- signed in December of 1992 -- awarded 100% of the team to his widow, Teresa Earnhardt. Earnhardt, Sr. owned 100% percent of the stock in DEI, and his will empowered Teresa "to retain and carry on any business or property in which I may own an interest at the time of my death." It also specifically stated that Teresa should receive "all of the stock owned by decedent in Dale Earnhardt Inc."

The debate over ownership and control of DEI is believed to have scuttled negotiations to re-sign Junior to a new contract, leading to the recent announcement that he will leave his father's team at the end of this season to race elsewhere in 2008 and beyond. Where Earnhardt may land continues to be the hottest topic of conversation in NASCAR.

Yesterday, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge insisted that a decision on her brother's plans may not come before mid-summer.

"By mid to late summer, we would definitely have our position solidified," she said. "If we want to make the most out of this change, a date no later than August 1 would be best, due to sponsor point of sale, advertising, licensed products and other things that need time to be developed and produced."

Earnhardt Elledge said she was pleasantly surprised with the number of offers her brother has received from NASCAR Nextel Cup teams, and stressed that nobody is out of the running.

"I have received more calls than expected, but the more options the better," she said. "The process has not reached a point where we have eliminated options. All of our options remain viable until we have 100% decided on one."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fixing The NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge

It’s time to spice up the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge.

Other than an overly contrived format consisting of four 20-lap segments – which served no purpose Saturday night, other than to pause the program just when things were beginning to heat up – there’s nothing special about NASCAR’s version of the All-Star Game. It’s the same drivers, in the same cars, driving for the same teams, utilizing the same rulebook on a track the series visits three times each season. There’s nothing new or exciting there.

Aside from a devilishly clever qualifying system that makes pitcrews a part of the process, there’s nothing to distinguish the NASCAR Nextel All Star Challenge from any other event on NASCAR’s already overcrowded schedule.

I’ve got a plan to change all that.

Under the Moody System, NASCAR’s All-Star Race will be open ONLY to drivers who won a race the previous year, the Nextel Cup champion, and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. No washed-up champions from a decade ago, no rickety former All-Star winners, and no drivers who qualified by having someone else win a race in the car they now drive. And no, we will not be allowing the fans to vote a driver into the field. Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty and Martin Truex, Jr. earned the Fans’ Choice spots in each of the past three seasons, proving that fans have a limited grasp on the term “All-Star.” The fan vote has become little more than a popularity contest, and it has no place under the Moody System.

The preliminary event -- The Nextel Open -- will consist solely of drivers who won a pole the previous season, but are not otherwise qualified for the main event. We’ll draw for starting position, throw the green flag, and 50 laps later, the winner goes to the All-Star Challenge.

With apologies to Humpy Wheeler and Bruton Smith, we’re taking the All-Stars on the road in 2008, to tracks that otherwise don’t get to see Nextel Cup racing. We’re going to Iowa Speedway -- an absolute state-of-the-art showplace. Next year, book your tickets to Nashville, where NASCAR will tap into the energy that flows through Music City USA. Kentucky? No thanks. Jerry Carroll and his cohorts threw themselves off the Moody Gravy Train by trying to sue their way onto the Nextel Cup schedule. Excluding them from the All-Star party is our petty, vindictive way of showing them who’s really in charge.

Now comes the real fun.

The rules for the 2008 NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge will be… shall we say… relaxed over what we've grown used to. In fact, the only rule in the book will be that teams must run a legal, NASCAR Nextel Cup Car Of Tomorrow chassis, with no tweaks, no changes and no modifications. Aside from that, there are no rules.

Drop a 700 cubic inch powerplant under the hood if you like. Add fuel injection, a blower, anything your heart desires. Swap out a bunch of bolt-on parts to lower the ride height to ¾ of an inch, strap on a set of supermodified rubber, then bolt a wing to the roof, World Of Outlaws style. Plumb it with nitrous, crank-in 80% left-side weight, hop the driver up on Red Bull and turn him loose for what promises to be the wildest 100-lap All-Star Extravaganza in the history of motorsports. We'll have no “competition cautions,” no segments and no inversions. Just 100 laps of balls-on-the-dashboard, white-knuckled fun.

I’d buy a ticket to see that, and I’ll bet you would, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Quit Cutting On The Shrub

It's time for people to get off Kyle Busch's back.

One of the most talented young drivers in NASCAR, the 22-year old Busch frequently draws the ire of fans and competitors alike by – -- acting his age. The examples are plentiful, and public.

After winning NASCAR’s inaugural Car Of Tomorrow race at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, Busch came off like a spoiled brat in Victory Lane, saying the new car “sucked,” and railing against the sanctioning body’s insistence on implementing it. He continued his diatribe in the media center, while car owner Rick Hendrick sat helplessly alongside, attempting to bite a hole in his lip.

Three weeks later in Texas, Busch left the speedway grounds after a mid-race crash. His team made repairs, only to find themselves without a driver. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stepped in to relieve the missing wunderkind, unleashing a storm of “Junior to Hendrick Motorsports” speculation, and painting Busch once again as an impulsive, spoiled brat.

Saturday’s night’s wreck with big brother Kurt in the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge stoked his unsavory reputation once again. While Kurt climbed from his battered car and spoke humorously about the wreck, Kyle stormed off to his transporter; dodging the media every step of the way.

There’s no doubt, Kyle Busch gives people plenty of reasons to dislike him. It’s easy to pigeonhole him as a foul-tempered, ill-mannered, overaggressive menace, especially if you count the number of cars his balls-to-the-wall bravado has wadded-up this season. He stands a disappointing sixth in Busch Series points, a frequent victim of his own aggressive driving, despite leading more laps than any other driver. On the Cup side, he has finished all but one race, but his car comes back looking like a plastic bag full of walnuts, more often than not.

Recently, some of the so-called “experts” have begun to wonder aloud whether Hendrick should dump the Shrub, opening a spot on his Nextel Cup superteam for the eminently available Earnhardt, Jr.

That, racefans, is nothing short of hogwash.

Yes, Busch has wrecked a bunch of cars this season. Almost as many as four-time Nextel Cup champion Jeff Gordon wrecked in his early years of Busch and Nextel Cup racing.

Yes, Busch can be prickly in times of trouble. Almost as prickly as two-time Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart.

And yes, he’s immature. Almost as immature as his former Nextel Cup champion brother at the same age. Kurt Busch has grown immeasurably in the last two years, after learning some important life lessons the hard way. Kyle will do the same, if given time.

I tremble to think what my life would be like if the national media had chronicled my comings and goings at age 22. I was immature, hedonistic, self-centered and rude, just like 99% of the 22-year olds in the world. I made my youthful mistakes under the merciful fog of anonymity, stumbling through one misadventure after another without having to worry about someone taking notes and reporting my misdeeds on ESPN. I said and did some incredibly stupid things, paid the price for that stupidity, and (usually) learned from my mistakes. In time, I emerged a mature, thoughtful adult, or as close to one as I have been able to come.

Kyle Busch will do the same.

He has admitted that the trail of demolished racecars this season bothers him. He has admitted talking with his brother (and others) about the importance of picking his spots and tempering his aggression. Perhaps Saturday night's All Star crash will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, producing a kinder, gentler, more mature Shrub than we have ever seen before.

If not now, eventually. And soon.

Make no mistake about it, once Busch discovers the maturity to match his immense talent, he will win races. And Rick Hendrick will have a third Nextel Cup champion in his stable. A champion named Busch, not Earnhardt.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Buzz From All-Star Weekend In Charlotte

Rick Hendrick said Saturday that there is "there's no room at the inn" for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., at Hendrick Motorsports. That leaves Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs and Bobby Ginn on the list of top-flight, Chevrolet-backed team owners still in the Earnhardt derby. All three have said they are interested in speaking with Earnhardt.

All of Hendrick’s current drivers -- Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears –- are under contract through at least the 2008 season. Hendrick said he would help Earnhardt with chassis and/or engines if he decides to field his own Nextel Cup team, though Earnhardt has said that option is last on his list of possibilities for 2008.

Earnhardt, Childress Team Up (But Not That Way): Richard Childress Raciing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. announced the formation of Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies this weekend; a move that will combine the engine departments of the two teams.

Construction will begin this summer on a facility, to be located between RCR and DEI, with completion expected by the middle of next year. Until then, work will be divided between the two shops. Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies will build engines for their Nextel Cup and Busch Series teams, with an engine leasing program for Cup, Busch and Truck teams to follow at some point in the future. The partnership will also expand to the Grand American Rolex Series, off-road racing, and other stock car series in the long term.

MWR Suspensions Lifted: NASCAR announced this weekend that it will lift the indefinite suspensions of Michael Waltrip Racing Competition Director Bobby Kennedy and former crewchief David Hyder on May 30th.

Hyder and Kennedy were suspended after the discovery of an unnamed fuel additive in Waltrip’s Toyota prior to Daytona 500 qualifying, and Hyder was fired by the team last month. Waltrip commented on NASCAR’s announcement, expressing full confidence in Kennedy’s innocence, and saying his Competition Director had been “booted by association" with Hyder.

“Bobby has been with me for seven or eight years, and we've never gotten into any trouble for anything,” said Waltip. “I don't know Hyder, (but) I know Bobby.”

Waltrip met with NASCAR officials last week, and offered a bit of insight into the long-running investigation, saying, "They told us (the additive) was obviously put there on purpose to enhance performance, and that it had to be done by someone inside our company.”

He stopped short of blaming Hyder directly, saying, “I don't want to single out Hyder, (but) I do want to say that a couple of the guys who came with him are no longer employed by us."

Godfather Takes It All Off For 2007 NASCAR Day Telethon At Sam Bass Gallery

As part of Friday's NASCAR Day Telethon at the Sam Bass Gallery in Concord, North Carolina, The Godfather pledged to shave off his 30-year old goatee if listeners pushed donations past the one million dollar plateau. With nearly $400,000 needed and only four hours remaining, it looked like a safe bet. But looks can be deceiving.

Incredible listener response throughout the program, along with a massive donation from our friends at in the final minutes pushed total to nearly $1.2 million, and forced Moody to break out the razor.

Cold water and a disposable razor made for a fairly uncomfortable shave, but in the end, the job got done! Thanks to everyone who contributed to making the 2007 NASCAR Day Telethon such a rousing success. And by the way, with two weeks off before the next MRN Radio broadcast race, The Godfather pledges to have the goatee back before anyone knows it's missing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Penalty Increases Pressure On Earnhardt Team

Last week, in the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s announcement that he will leave Dale Earnhardt, Inc., at the end of the season, crewchief Tony Eury, Jr., appealed to media members and fans to give his team space in coming weeks, and not make their job more difficult.

Saturday, the team shot itself in the foot, after illegally modified rear-wing brackets were found on Earnhardt’s Budweiser Chevrolet. NASCAR responded yesterday by docking both Earnhardt and team-owner Teresa Earnhardt 100 championship points, fining the team $100,000 (equal to Michael Waltrip’s record penalty at Daytona) and suspending Eury for six races, including this weekend’s NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge.

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby told Sirius Speedway yesterday that while wing brackets were not specifically included on the list of items NASCAR has warned teams not to tamper with, the sanctioning body felt that a clear message needed to be sent that it will not tolerate any manipulation of its new Car Of Tomorrow rules package.

The penalty drops Earnhardt from 12th to 14th in championship points; outside the parameters for qualification for the Chase For The Nextel Cup.

DEI released a statement late yesterday vowing to appeal the severity of the penalty, saying, “The car in question was a brand new car, and the brackets that were found to be nonconforming were built as test pieces before the final design was established by NASCAR. They should not have been on the car, and with Tony Eury Jr. away from the track Thursday during inspection, the error was not caught.

"We do not question the infraction, which is clearly spelled out in the NASCAR rule book. However, we have appealed the severity of the penalty."

It is not likely that the NASCAR Stock Car Racing Commission will rule in favor of DEI, since NASCAR warned its teams in advance what the penalty would be for violating the COT rules. In addition, there is no precedent for the “we put them on by mistake” defense in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing.

Stay tuned.

BDR Will Not Appeal Benson Penalty: Bill Davis Racing will not appeal the penalties assessed in the aftermath of last week’s bizarre incident during NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Driver Johnny Benson and team-owner Gail Davis were each docked 50 championship points, and crewchief Trip Bruce was fined $10,000 and suspended for two weeks after an unauthorized driver crashed Benson’s truck at the test.

Mike Lichty -- a friend and mentor of Benson's – was allowed to drive the truck last Thursday, despite having no NASCAR license or insurance. NASCAR immediately ejected Benson and his team from the test, before announcing the penalties yesterday. Team owner Bill Davis reacted angrily to the incident, saying, "I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know his name. I had no earthly idea that he was driving the truck. That’s about against the rules as anything I’ve seen happen."

Yesterday, Davis said, "We agree with the penalties NASCAR has issued to the 23 team, and we will deal with them accordingly. NASCAR has rules and policies in place to keep the drivers and crewmembers safe, and we appreciate their vigilance in this instance."

The penalty drops Benson from seventh to eighth in points, 252 behind teammate Mike Skinner. Billy Hagerthey will replace Bruce during his suspension.

The penalties come on the heels of what was already a tough month for Davis. Two weeks ago, former driver Scott Wimmer filed a lawsuit against Davis, asking for $1.2 million in unpaid salary for the 2006 season and alleging that he was improperly released at the end of the 2005 season.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

CONFIRMED: Earnhardt Out At DEI

It’s official. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will not drive for his late father’s race team again in 2008.

Earnhardt confirmed this morning that he will leave Dale Earnhardt, Inc., at the end of this season, after lengthy negotiations with stepmother Teresa Earnhardt failed to lead to a new contract. "We worked really hard, but we were never close," said Earnhardt of the talks. "After a year of intense's time to move on and drive for a new team in 2008."

NASCAR’s most popular driver said he has no idea where he will race in 2008, but made it clear that money is not a major motivator. Commenting on the bidding frenzy that will almost certainly erupt for his services, he said, “It’s not the guy who gives me the biggest paycheck. It’s the person I feel like will allow me to accomplish what I want to in my career. There are some things you can’t get with money; (like) peace of mind and satisfaction in what you do everyday. I want to go somewhere and really make things happen for somebody.”

Just two hours after a reportedly emotional meeting with DEI personnel, in which he revealed his decision to leave for the first time, Earnhardt said his departure comes with mixed emotions.

"I'm sad that I have to leave some employees that I got close to, (and) leave some relationships. (But) at 32 years of age -- the same age my father was when he made his final and most important career decision -- it's time for me to compete on a consistent basis and contend for championships.

"I believe I'd have my father's blessing."

Earnhardt said his vision of how DEI should prepare for the future differs dramatically from that of Teresa Earnhardt, leading to his decision to look elsewhere. While acknowledging that his announcement will result in some hard feelings at DEI, he pledged to do his best in his final season there.

“We're going to finish this year out, and I told my guys we're going to run hard,” he said. “I don't want any excuses for us not giving our best effort. I plan on giving everything I've got like I always do, and hopefully that's what I'll get in return."

Teresa Earnhardt did not attend her stepson’s press conference, but released a statement saying, “While we are very disappointed that Dale Jr. has chosen to leave the family business, we remain excited about our company's future. Dale and I built this company to be a championship contender, and those principles still apply. Dale Earnhardt Inc. will win. ... This company has a great legacy and a bright future, built on loyalty, integrity and commitment."

Earnhardt, Jr., fended off repeated questions about where he will land next, saying he plans to listen to all offers before taking another step. He did not discount the possibility of fielding his own team out of the JR Motorsports stable, but sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge called that option, “our last choice,” adding, “if that was necessary, that would be what we would do. (But) I believe our first choice would be to drive for another top, competitive team.”

“We’re going to listen to everybody,” said Earnhardt Jr., stressing his desire to continue his longstanding relationship with Chevrolet. That pares the likely options to Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and perhaps Ginn Racing. Gibbs, RCR and Ginn all have room for a new team under NASCAR’s new four-car limit, while Hendrick would have to make space for Earnhardt.

Hendrick Motorsports GM Marshall Carlson told Sirius Speedway this week, “We’ve got four strong drivers that are on contract here beyond `07, four string sponsors that are on with us beyond `07, and we’re squared away on this end. Who wouldn’t want to be involved with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in some capacity? He’s quite a driver, and a good person. But we’ve got our four folks set, and our sponsors set, beyond `07.

Mike Dillon, Vice President of Competition for RCR, made it clear that his company is interesting in talking to Earnhardt. "He's a great race car driver,” Dillon said. “I believe he can win races and championships, and we could provide that for him here. His fan base and popularity will certainly make any deal attractive. We'd love to have him, but you would have to be prepared. We have championship caliber teams already, and have to be careful not to upset the existing situation.

"Certainly, we would love to have him. I hope we're that lucky.”

Asked about his stated interest in driving his father’s former #3 one day, Earnhardt said, “I've got to do a little soul searching (to do) on how I feel driving the No. 3 car."

NHIS Owner Bob Bahre: "I (Can't) Stand Darrell Waltrip."

New Hampshre Internatinal Speedway Chairman Bob Bahre says he would have discussed the sale of his racetrack to Kentucky Speedway co-owner Jerry Carroll, had it not been for Carroll’s relationship with Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip served as a paid consultant for Kentucky Speedway during its construction, and Bahre said yesterday that Waltrip’s criticism of NHIS in the aftermath of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin’s deaths there in 2000 was a attempt to discredit the speedway and earn a Cup date for Kentucky.

Waltrip told the Nashville Tennessean that "something's... terribly wrong" at the Granite State oval. “I won't say we shouldn't race there anymore,” he added, “but I will say this; NASCAR better find some answers before we go back."

Bahre told the Boston Globe, “I wasn't ready to sell at the time, and I told Jerry Carroll that. But I also told him I couldn't deal with him because I couldn't stand Darrell Waltrip. Otherwise, I would have looked at the deal. It's not Jerry's fault. He knows I hate Darrell. Those two kids got killed here, and that man's got the balls to say that this track killed them. You know he was just trying to get a Cup date for Kentucky."

"Jerry Carroll is a guy I have a lot of respect for," said Bahre. "But I told him I didn't want anything to do with selling my track to them because of Darrell Waltrip."

Waltrip responded to Bahre's remarks this week, telling the Boston Globe, "There's not a racetrack that didn't come under some sort of scrutiny. If I made any comment, it was to be constructive, not destructive."

Carroll offered Bahre $360 for his track two years ago, and claims he was rebuffed only after NASCAR threatened to pull Bahre’s two Nextel Cup races from the schedule. Bahre has denied that claim, saying no-one from NASCAR ever pressured him not to sell to Kentucky.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hendrick/Chevrolet Dominance Does Not Necessitate A NASCAR Rule Change

NASCAR has raced its new “Car Of Tomorrow” four times this season, and Hendrick Motorsports has won `em all

Kyle Busch scored at Bristol, Martinsville fell to Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon won at Phoenix and Johnson doubled-up last weekend at Richmond. Each of those four races featured at least two Hendrick Chevrolets in the top five, if not three. And in three of the four races, Hendrick cars started on the pole.

That type of dominance is rare in NASCAR, and it has not gone unnoticed. The call has gone out from some corners for NASCAR to intercede, leveling the playing field with a rule change designed to slow the Chevrolets. There is precedent for such a move, since NASCAR has tinkered with rear spoiler angles and front valence heights in the past, in an effort to equalize competition among the various makes. Midseason rule changes have been rare in recent seasons, however, and it’s hard to imagine the sanctioning body rewriting its rulebook after just four COT events, in an effort to slow the Hendrick juggernaut.

In fact, there is no reason to do so.

The Car Of Tomorrow is not making Hendrick Motorsports look good. Hendrick Motorsports is making Hendrick Motorsports look good. They jumped on the COT bandwagon with both feet during the off-season, forming a Research and Development team to build, test and fine-tune the car long before NASCAR’s official on-track testing program began. While other teams complained about the new car, and questioned NASCAR’s commitment to implementing it in 2007, Hendrick R&D driver David Green was logging laps, putting Hendrick far ahead of the pack.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., called upon NASCAR to revamp the COT this week, saying, “Everyone is struggling with getting the cars to turn. Even when you're running in second or third position, you're just the best of the worst cars out there. Nobody's cars were that fun to drive. You're just trying to be the guy with the least amount of problems.”

With all due respect, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon looked like they were having all kinds of fun Sunday. Their cars weren’t perfect -- no car ever is -- but they were plenty good enough to claim a 1-2-4 finish for Johnson, Gordon and Kurt Busch.

Sorry, Junior, but the Car Of Tomorrow didn’t beat you Sunday. Hendrick Motorsports beat you, by taking the car you and your team cannot seem to figure out, and making it fly. While you wallowed through the corners with a tight-handling machine, the Hendrick stable found a way to make their cars turn. That’s what separates the men from the boys in this sport, no matter what kind of car is being raced.

For the record, Hendrick Motorsports has also won three of the six non-COT events this season; for a total of seven checkered flags in 10 starts. Chevrolet has won two of the remaining three with drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, while Matt Kenseth’s Ford scored the only non-bowtie victory of the season at California Speedway

Is that dominance grounds for a rule change? Absolutely not.

There is no doubt that Chevrolet has ruled the roost this season. The top three teams in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing – Hendrick, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing – all field Chevrolets, and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Haas-CNC and Hall Of Fame Racing have also made significant contributions.

Are those teams dominating because of Chevrolet’s input, or is Chevrolet cleaning house simply because it has the best teams? Most likely, it’s a little bit of both.

Jack Roush readily admits that he allowed his Ford team to fall behind the technological times. Penske Racing South drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman have ackowledged that shortcomings in the way their team collects and implements data hindered their Dodges last season. With the exception of Dave Blaney and David Reutimann, the Toyota camp is in complete disarray, leaving the field wide open for Chevrolet to dominate.

Chevy has done what is necessary to exploit that opportunity.

The bowtie brigade has done its homework across the board, providing its teams with the part, pieces, technology and information necessary to win at NASCAR’s highest level. Those teams have taken that support and made the most of it, assembling a Murderer’s Row of top-shelf cars and drivers. Ford, Dodge and Toyota have exacerbated the situation by dropping the ball, allowing Chevy to lap the field with only token opposition.

Hendrick Motorsports – and Chevrolet in general -- have done what every manufacturer and team set out to do at the start of every season. They have dominated their competition, won the lion’s share of races, and given themselves a seemingly insurmountable lead in the manufacturer’s standings. They should not be punished for doing their jobs better than the competition. In fact, they should be applauded for it.

Ford, Dodge and Toyota, the gauntlet has been laid at your feet. Get to work, identify the flaws in your respective programs and begin making whatever changes are necessary to improve.

But don’t expect NASCAR to do the hard work for you.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Jarrett Defends Borland's Departure From MWR

Dale Jarrett said yesterday that last week’s removal of Matt Borland as crewchief of his #44 UPS Toyota was made in an effort to improve the entire, three-car effort at Michael Waltrip Racing, and had nothing to do with the #44 team’s poor on-track performance. Jarrett and General Manager Ty Norris said a number of problems were found with Michael Waltrip Racing's three cars when they arrived at Talladega last week, convincing Norris that a Technical Director was needed to oversee the operation of the teams.

"We need to strengthen our organization in a way that it was going to take Matt away from being the crewchief," said Jarrett in a Friday press conference here at Richmond International Raceway. "We're having some issues with our racecars getting through the race shop and to the track. We needed someone to serve as Technical Director, and that's what Matt was hired for in the beginning."

Borland’s contract with MWR called for him to serve as a crewchief for two seasons, before being promoted to Technical Director. Borland balked a making the move early, eventually prompting a decision that he leave the team entirely. Jason Burdett will assume the crewchief’s role for Jarrett, possibly as soon as next weekend at Darlington.

Jarrett failed to qualify for tonight’s "Crown Royal Presents The Jim Stewart 400," snapping a string of 424 consecutive Netxel Cup starts. The former series champion repeatedly denied that the Borland move was specifically design to improved the performance of his #44 team, and grew visibly angry when asked about his rapid turnover of crewchiefs in recent seasons.

“That’s because you all count everybody that was put in for one race or another,” snapped Jarrett, who has gone through approximately a dozen crewchiefs in the last five seasons. “I didn’t have a thing to do with it sometimes, and to be quite honest, it’s not something I’m concerned with. I don’t really care what the number is. I’m not that hard to get along with, I can assure you. But I am demanding. You’ll work your tail off, because I work my tail off.

"We have to do some things here, and make some moves to make our organization better as a whole," Jarrett said. "This isn't just about the 44 car. It's about the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization, and trying to strengthen it.”

Jarrett said he knows the “feel” that he wants in a racecar, but has been unable to communicate those preferences to his crewchiefs.

Borland won 12 races with Ryan Newman at Penske Racing South, before being lured away to join the MWR stable and Jarrett in 2007. He is not believed to be in attendance at Richmond this weekend, and spokespersons told Sirius Speedway late last week that he would speak to the media only if he accepts a position with another NASCAR team.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yo,Yo,Yo! It's M.C. Bobby, Dawg!!!!

DEI/Yates Talks Spark Manufacturer Derby

Discussions about a possible merger between Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and Robert Yates Racing are underway, triggering a battle between Ford Motor Company and rival Chevrolet for the affections of the potential new super team.

DEI Executive John Story and RYR President Doug Yates both confirmed to Sirius NASCAR Radio Sunday that preliminary talks have been ongoing for several weeks, but that no paperwork has been exchanged. Story said DEI hopes to add a fourth Nextel Cup team as soon as next season, and is working to solidify a manufacturer-based financing and technological support package for 2008 and beyond, after its current deal with Chevrolet expires at the end of this season.

While refusing to rule anything out, Yates stated that he and his father expect to remain with Ford Motor Company for the long term, thoughts that were echoed by Ford Racing Technology Communications Manager Kevin Kennedy. “Ford is fully committed to Robert Yates Racing for the long-term,” said Kennedy last week, “and they have assured us that are similarly committed to Ford. Robert and Doug have been in contact with Ford about the nature of the discussions (with DEI). We fully expect they will remain with Ford for many, many years.”

Chevrolet has been Dale Earnhardt, Inc.’s manufacturer of choice since the team’s founding, but sources close to the situation say that the situation could easily change. Some see a merger with Yates as Teresa Earnhardt’s way to ensure DEI’s long-term future, even without Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In addition, a move to the Ford camp could increase DEI’s level of manufacturer support. Presently, DEI ranks behind Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing on GM’s Nextel Cup roster. A move to the Ford camp would place them second only to Roush Racing in the Blue Oval pipeline.

Story stressed that Dale Earnhardt, Inc., will exhaust all its options with Chevrolet before looking elsewhere, while admitting that the team has spoken to other automakers.

“We've had some conversation with a couple other manufacturers,” he said. “They've called to inquire what our contract situation was. We told them…we are going to sit down and exhaust our options with Chevrolet first, and if the opportunity came up, we'd talk to somebody else.

“We haven't seen anything in writing from anybody else. The only proposal we have right now…is from Chevrolet.”

Chevrolet executives said they were unaware that the team was talking with rival manufacturers. But Ford Racing Technology Director Dan Davis confirmed that the Dearborn automaker is interested in adding DEI to its stable, saying, “We definitely have been talking with DEI. We’ve been having informal talks with them for several years. We have not yet made a formal offer to them, but we know that their GM contract is up at the end of the year. We had some discussions with them, and we’ve made it clear that we’d love to have them in our program.”

Toyota’s Lee White, meanwhile, said his company will not be involved in the DEI/RYR Derby.

“There is a tremendous amount of both equity and liability involved with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” he said. “Right now, Toyota is not ready to take on the liability that would come with that scenario.”

NASCAR's "Moron Minority"

Rev. Jerry Falwell has his Moral Majority. NASCAR has its “Moron Minority.”

Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, a small percentage of NASCAR fans put the vast majority of us to shame once again, showering the track (and winner Jeff Gordon) with trash and debris after Gordon’s win in the Aaron’s 499. It’s impossible to know exactly what they were upset about; Gordon winning the race, the event ending under caution, or Gordon topping the late Dale Earnhardt on the all-time NASCAR wins list. It doesn’t really matter, though, since there is no excuse that could possibly justify the latest outbreak of post-race NASCAR boorishness.

Sunday’s fusillade was the most disappointing yet, since virtually every driver in the NASCAR garage spoke out against it prior to the race. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., arguably the most influential driver in all of NASCAR, pleaded with fans to keep their cans to themselves, adding that if they felt compelled to throw something at a car, they should go out in the parking lot and toss a brewski through their own windshield. His appeal fell on deaf ears, however, prompting him to remark after the race, "It don't look like it's something you can control."

"It’s terrible," agreed second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson, surveying a minefield of exploded beer cans on the Talladega frontstretch. "I can't believe that people who love this sport would take the chance to hurt a kid; hurt another person. I'm disappointed to see that, and it's getting worse and worse every week."

Speedway President Grant Lynch talked tough immediately after the race, saying, "We warned our fans about throwing debris on the racetrack and the consequences of such actions. Additional security was brought in for the grandstands, (and) we enforced our policies and took appropriate action on individuals we were able to accurately identify." However, independent reports later revealed that that less than 10 people had been detained for throwing objects Sunday.

Tuesday, officials announced that 14 race fans who threw objects onto the track will not be allowed to purchase tickets there again. The fans were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, according to Talladega County Sheriff Jerry Studdard. All posted bond at jail facilities located at the speedway and were released. Disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor in Alabama, punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

We can hope that a $500 fine will knock some common sense and decency into those Schlitz-for-brains neanderthals, but it's not likely. They probably too dumb to understand the magnitude of their actions.

Lynch said Sunday that no injuries had been reported, though a caller to Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway said his son received more than 50 stitches after being hit in the head with a flying beer can. That report could not be immediately confirmed, but common sense indicates that when hundreds of 16-ounce projectiles are hurled skyward, someone’s going to get hurt when they land.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was right Sunday. The "Moron Minority" is out of control. And in my opinion, there’s only one way to prevent what happened Sunday from ever happening again.

Take away their ammunition.

It’s time for tracks on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit to ban cans and plastic bottles from their grandstands. Take away the beer, confiscate the soft drinks and eliminate anything that could potentially be used as a projectile. Do what every other professional sport in this country does; require patrons to buy their beer in 12-ounce, abuse-proof plastic cups. The profit margin will skyrocket, and the embarrassment factor will plummet.

The "Moron Minority" will protest the loss of its God-given right to get drunk and show its collective backside to the world. They will declare the move "another attempt by NASCAR to fleece the working man," and threaten to boycott the sport forever. The rest of us won’t miss them at all.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.


See, It's Not Just Us!

Apparently, we're not the only ones in trouble for mis-using the occasional goat. Click HERE for the latest.