Thursday, September 28, 2006

Commentary: The Open Wheel Talent Drain Will Continue

These are tough times to be an Open Wheel fan.

There is no light at the end of the Champ Car/Indy Racing League reunification tunnel, and many of the sport’s top stars suddenly seem to be gravitating toward the bright lights and burgeoning bank accounts of NASCAR.

Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya will drive a Nextel Cup Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing next season. Champ Car’s A.J. Allmendinger turned heads in his maiden NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start two weeks ago, and is making no secret of his interest in a possible NASCAR career.

IRL champion Sam Hornish says he wants to compete in some NASCAR races next season, and that stock car racing is something he is going to do. "I want to try it out and see if I'm capable of doing that,” said Hornish this week. “We’ll have to wait and see when the right time is.”

Max Papis has been mouthing similar sentiments for more than a year.

Paul Tracy continues to dabble in stock cars – with limited success – as do Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain, Jr. Even Danica Patick played the stock-card (with questionable sincerity) in her effort to ply a heftier contract out of Michael Andretti.

It’s not exactly a case of rats jumping off a sinking ship, but it is certainly a trend worth watching.

It is easy for our friends in the Open Wheel community to attribute this recent exodus to nothing more than cold-blooded greed. In their eyes, Tracy, Jourdain, Hornish and company are little more than mercenaries, trading the purity and tradition of Indianapolis or Long Beach for greener pastures -- the old “green pictures of dead Presidents” -- in NASCAR-land. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Yes, money is part of it. Tracy recently lamented that Nextel Cup rookie Denny Hamlin purchased his own jet recently; something PT has been unable to do in more than a dozen years of Champ Car war. Is Tracy starving to death? Certainly not. But compared to even a first-year NASCAR Nextel Cup driver, he’s working pretty cheap. Everyone wants to be fairly compensated at the end of their workday, especially if that day includes the distinct possibility of being critically injured, or even killed. I love my job, but make no mistake about it. I punch that time clock every day for one reason, and one reason only.

Because it pays the bills.

Beyond the financial reality, though, there is another reason for this sudden interest in NASCAR racing. It’s called ego. Elite athletes want to perform on the largest possible stage. They want to race in front of capacity crowds, and be seen and appreciated by millions of fans around the world. NASCAR allows them to do that, to a degree that Champ Car and the IRL can presently only dream of.

Tony Kanaan stepped into the media center at Daytona International Speedway yesterday, and commented on the number of reporters waiting there. “I have never seen this many reporters at a test,” said the IRL star. “It looks like race day in here.” Actually, the media mob was less than half what it will be when Nextel Cup testing begins at DIS in January, and a small fraction what it is each week on the traveling Nextel Cup circuit.

Apparently, the Open Wheel guys aren’t used to getting that kind of attention. And you know what? I think they kinda like it.

They also like the idea that you can land a ride in NASCAR on talent alone, without schlepping a $5-million sponsor along with you. There are quality rides available at every level of NASCAR right now, if you’ve got the talent to earn one. And if things go well, a kid like A.J. Allmendinger can parlay that talent into fame and fortune beyond his wildest dreams.

Don’t believe it? Just ask Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, or either of the Nextel Cup drivers named Gordon. All of them grew up dreaming of a career driving Open Wheel racers, but changed course when greeted by the harsh realities of the sport. CART and IRL had nothing to offer them when they came of age, just as it has nothing to offer the vast majority of talented young drivers today.

The money and the rides are all on NASCAR’s side of the fence -- no matter how much the open-wheel elitists wish it weren’t so – and it doesn’t appear that anything’s going to change in the foreseeable future. Kevin Kalkhoven and Tony George continue to fiddle while Rome burns, and the France Family thanks them for it, every weekend from February through November.

Awesome Bill's Retro-Ride

Here is the Melling Industries sponsored Dodge Charger that Bill Elliott will drive for R&J Racing this weekend at Kansas Speedway. If this shot doesn't bring back memories, you haven't been around NASCAR long enough!

"I Went To The Race, And A Hockey Game Broke Out!"

Here’s the link we promised to the wild Toledo Speedway ARCA Late Model brawl, complete with a driver drop-kicking his way through a rival’s windshield. It took the other guy a while to get unbuckled and out of his car, and judging from the size of the dude, it's probably a good thing there were plenty of corner workers and officials on hand when he finally did. CLICK HERE

And while we’re in video mode, here's a look at Champ Car rookie Katherine Legge’s terrifying Road America shunt. CLICK HERE The fact that she walked away with nothing more than a bruised kneee is nothing short of a miracle.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pemberton Calls RCR Flap "Incredible Waste Of Time"

NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton said Richard Childress Racing’s allegedly altered wheels at New Hampshire should have been a non-issue. Pemberton said virtually every team owner in NASCAR called to ask about the report Monday, worried that Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton had enjoyed an unfair advantage over the competition.

"They all want to make sure (they weren’t) racing against it,'' said Pemberton Friday at Dover. "Once we explained everything -- that there was no way it happened -- everybody was really happy with it. It was an incredible waste of time and energy on everybody's part.''

Pemberton confirmed what both Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress said last week; that Goodyear’s policy of mounting tires randomly on each team’s rims would almost certainly preclude anyone from knowing which wheels would be bolted on the right-front from week to week. He also revealed that officials perform random air pressure checks throughout each race weekend, even submerging tire-and-wheel assemblies in water to check for leaks.

Harvick's crewchief, Todd Berrier, said he and his team have too much on the line to push the envelope on rules, saying, “We're all in a position…that we have way too much to lose to take a chance like that.”

Berrier also said that a ploy like is being alleged would take someone much smarter than him to implement, adding, "If you're smart enough to figure out how to control something like that that is not mechanical, you're pretty sharp. Obviously, I need to be farming, and these other people need to be building space shuttles.”

In an exclusive conversation Saturday, SPEED reporter Bob Dillner revealed that he actually had two sources for his controversial story, and that both sources stand behind what they told him last Sunday. “I have talked to both of them three times since this all happened,” said Dillner, “and both of them are confident that they got it right.” Dillner said he has remained largely silent during the controversy at the urging of the network.

“Their attitude is, `you reported the story, you believed it to be true, and your sources stand behind it. That’s all that needs to be said,’ said Dillner, admitting that the last seven days have been, “about the longest of my life.”

Jeff Burton spoke out on the matter again Friday, repeating his earlier contention that Dillner had not done the proper amount of investigation before airing the story.

“Bob’s sources are Bob’s sources, and I’m not going to get into that because it’s unfair to Bob,” said Burton. “But if a team did it, it’s highly unethical. When you’re five years old and you tell a lie, you get your hand smacked. You’re taught at an early age that it’s wrong to lie, and someone lied to Bob Dillner, no question about it. Someone should have woke up feeling bad about themselves, and if their mother did a good job raising them, they would have woke up feeling bad about themselves.”

Burton said he has no issue with Dillner personally, saying, “Bob’s an ethical guy, and he didn’t make this story up. In retrospect, though, he should have gone the extra step – after he reported it – to figure out if it was reported correctly or not. Being that NASCAR and the teams were all saying it didn’t happen, I think Bob could have done an investigation of where are our wheels, do we have the same wheels? And to my knowledge, that didn’t happen. But the biggest thing was that somebody boldfaced, blatantly lied to create a story that…we didn’t deserve to be part of.”

Burton also said that anyone who believes that NASCAR and RCR are colluding to cover up the story should find something else to do with their weekends.

“If our sport doesn’t have the ability to separate fact from fiction, then our sport is in major, major trouble,” he said. “If that’s what you believe, as a journalist or a fan, than you shouldn’t be involved in this sport. If people think NASCAR judges and rules with those ethics in 2006 – with all they have to lose – the best thing that person can do is walk away from the sport.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Now THAT"S a Funny Car!

Gary Scelzi's Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger Funny Car will be sporing new colors in this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex. LOTS of colors. Scelzi's associate sponsor, Valspar, had commissioned a wild-ass paint scheme, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of House of Kolor. The sceme, shown above, looks like a cross between an early 80's Journey album color and something the late Jerry Garcia coughed-up during an acid trip. In my humble opinion, this is what a fire-breathing flopper oughta look like.

Burton Irate Over SPEED Report

Jeff Burton is livid over Sunday’s SPEED TV report claiming that he and teammate Kevin Harvick were caught with altered right-front wheels in a post-race NASCAR inspection.

Burton said today, “It's pissed us off. It's made us mad. It's made us very mad. We've done nothing wrong. We've worked hard (and) smart, and someone in the media who chose to use unreliable sources has tainted that. It pisses me off, it pisses my team off, and I have little patience for it.

Burton blasted reporter Bob Dillner for airing the story, saying, "Journalists have a responsibility to report the facts. If you want to pretend to be an investigative journalist, then do a full job of investigating. If a true investigation had been done, this story never would have been on the air. He would have found it to be erroneous. But he's chosen to stand his ground on half the facts. Bob's story is a fabricated story. I'm not saying Bob fabricated this story, I'm saying someone did, and Bob chose to believe someone that doesn't have the facts."

SPEED’s Executive Producer of NASCAR programming, Chris Long, reaffirmed his support for Dillner, saying, “I'm backing Bob 110 percent, and we'll stick to the story he put out there. We have no reason to believe Bob would make up anything like that. I think NASCAR and RCR need to figure out where the story's coming from. It has nothing to do with us. We just report it."

Contacted yesterday, Dillner said, "I still stand behind my story."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The New Rules Of Racing Entitlement

As the host of a major motorsports talkshow (not as big as the LTN Radio Network, apparently, but still pretty big), I have increasingly found myself exposed to a new way of thinking about NASCAR racing. At first, I rebelled against it, fearing that this "Attitude of Entitlement" would destroy the sport. Little by little, however, I have been beaten down by this Chinese Water Torture of progressive, politically correct thinking, until today, I awoke fully and completely indoctriniated in the kinder, gentler way of doing things.

As a service to my new PC brethren -- and in an effort to convert the few stragglers still not on board -- I have jotted down 12 rules that I believe should govern the sport of NASCAR racing from now on:

1. I should not have to qualify for races. I have sponsors to satisfy, so NASCAR should guarantee me a spot in every race, regardless of how poorly I perform.

2. NASCAR should continue to reward me handsomely for things I did decades ago, despite the fact that I haven’t run in the Top-20 since the Nixon Administration.

3. Qualifying should be based on the size of my sponsorship, not the speed of my race car.

4. Independent teams should not be allowed to race, since they will almost certainly make me look bad by outrunning me.

5. I should be allowed to regain all my lost laps, without actually having to pass anyone.

6. I should be allowed to park my car immediately after the race begins, but still be paid as if I ran the entire event. After all, it’s not about actually competing, it’s about making the most money possible with the least amount of effort.

7. If I finish worse than 20th, I should be awarded 20th place points. It’s not my fault that I suck, and I’ve got a sponsor to protect.

8. NASCAR should expand the “Chase For The Nextel Cup” field until it is virtually impossible for me to miss the cut.

9. Once the Chase begins, I should be awarded Top-10 points, regardless of where I actually finish.

10. Chase races should be limited to only Chase-eligible drivers, to preclude the possibility of me actually having to pass anyone.

11. At its annual Awards Banquet, NASCAR should make a big deal out of the guy who finishes eleventh. After all, eleventh place is just as good as first.

And finally...

12. NASCAR should never – under any circumstances -- make me do anything difficult in order to succeed. I'm told that the quest for excellence can be stressful, and everyone knows that stress is bad for you.

Monday, September 18, 2006

SPEED Report Labeled "Pure Fantasy;" Harvick Alleges Story Planted

SPEED TV is taking some major heat today, in the aftermath of an apparently erroneous report that said NASCAR found improprieties with Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton’s right-front wheels at New Hampshire International Speedway.

On Sunday night’s edition of “NASCAR Victory Lane,” reporter Bob Dillner claimed that Harvick and Burton enjoyed a performance advantage at NHIS, due to wheels that had been modified to act as a bleeder valve, releasing air pressure from the tire. In addition, Dillner said RCR personnel had been told by NASCAR not to bring the offending wheels to the track again.

The modification "actually allowed some air to escape from the rim, and it was a performance advantage, basically, for the No. 29 and the No. 31 teams," Dillner said. "There's been a lot of talk this year about teams doing this sort of thing in the garage area, but nobody was ever caught with it."

Dillner told host Dave Despain, “Nothing will come of it, because it's one of those patented gray areas that we always talk about. It's a very gray area deal, (but) NASCAR did see something that they didn't like tonight, and told them, `Hey guys, let's not do that again.’”

Team owner Richard Childress responded angrily to those charges Monday, releasing a statement saying, “reports in the media, specifically on SPEED TV, that one or more of our NEXTEL Cup Series teams was found by NASCAR to be manipulating the rules yesterday at New Hampshire International Speedway are false and misleading. Our cars passed post-race inspection, and officials at NASCAR assured us last night and again today that no one from RCR was told at any time not to bring a part back to the racetrack. The reported events and conversations did not happen.”

On Monday’s edition of Sirius Speedway, NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter also reacted strongly to the report, calling it “pure fantasy,” and “sensationalist journalism.”

“NASCAR’s inspection process is open to the media,” said Hunter. “As you know, we are willing to answer questions about the process at any time. We weren’t asked any questions before the report aired, and we haven’t been asked any questions since. The report is absolutely false, and a great disservice to the teams in question.”

Despite those rebukes, SPEED Executive Producer for NASCAR Programming Chris Long stood by Dillner’s report, saying, “Bob Dillner has a strong record of solid reporting from the NASCAR garage; so there is no rational reason for us to consider that the events and conversations he related to SPEED viewers are anything other than the truth.” appeared to attempt to distance itself from the story early Monday, directing readers to for a story on the alleged rules violations. In that story, however, FOX Sports staff reporters cited Dillner’s report directly. You can read that article in its entirety HERE.

Asked about the controversy Monday, Harvick told Sirius Speedway that he believes RCR was set-up by another team, in an effort to create controversy.

"I absolutely think it was a plant from another team," said Harvick. "NASCAR didn't say anything (to SPEED), so it's pretty obvious to me where it came from. It's an attempt to try and distract us from what we're doing, but they're going to have to do a lot better than that." Harvick said he believes he knows who planted the story, but declined to name names.

Stewart And Gordon Miss The Mark With Chase Comments

Two former series champions said yesterday that the system for awarding the NASCAR Nextel Cup is flawed, and should be changed. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon made their comments at New Hampshire International Speedway, in the aftermath of a race that saw Jimmie Johnson finish 39th, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Busch 38th, seriously compromising their chances to win the Nextel Cup.

Stewart, the defending series champion, said yesterday that a day like the one Johnson and Busch suffered through yesterday should not doom their title hopes, saying, ‘If you've got 10 guys that are racing with each other (for the championship), they should have their own deal. There should be a second points format, in my opinion."

Stewart suggested running a 200-lap race for drivers outside the Top-10 each week, followed by a separate race for the Chase drivers. "That way, you don't have teams that made the playoffs playing against teams that didn't make the playoffs,” he said. “Right now, it's kind of a weird situation.”

“The Chase is exciting,” admitted Stewart. “There's nothing wrong with it, but it puts some of us in awkward positions. It's like me getting between Kevin and Jeff (today). Jeff was the second Chase guy, and he should get second-place points. You race these guys all year, and you're friends, and you know you're costing them points. The 33 guys that didn't make the Chase shouldn't have to feel that way if they have a good day and are able to pass guys."

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon agreed that a different system is needed, saying, “You have a 10-race shootout, and yet you have a points system that is all about consistency. You have one bad day, and it takes you out of it. If they had a structure of points just for the top 10, that would be good."

Both Stewart and Gordon mean well. Unfortunately, they are also dead wrong. Separate point systems for Chasers and non-Chasers – not to mention separate races – would be confusing, needlessly complicated, and run contrary to the spirit of the sport.

As a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox, I understand better than most how frustrating it is to have a season’s worth of high hopes come crashing down in a single day. But while Stewart and Gordon complain about NASCAR’s overly harsh playoff system, there are plenty of other examples of the “all or nothing” approach in motorsports.

Both Gordon and Stewart came up through the Sprint Car ranks, where huge qualifying fields are commonplace, and top drivers routinely get sent home for being too slow in time trails. Steve Kinser has won 20 World of Outlaws championships, but he still has to run the E-Feature if he’s not fast enough in qualifying. Those are the facts of life in racing, and nobody expects “King Kinser” to be treated any differently than the rest.

In NASCAR circles, teams spend months preparing for the Daytona 500; tweaking and adjusting their cars in an all-out effort to win the season’s biggest race. And yet, one bad lap – in qualifying or the race itself -- can spoil their chances of winning. I have yet to hear Gordon, Stewart, or anyone else propose changes to the Daytona 500, allowing drivers who crash out early to be “graded on the curve” as if they hadn’t.

One final example, if you will. A few years ago, Stewart himself suffered a blown engine on the opening lap of the `500,’ finishing in 43rd place and putting his championship hopes squarely behind the eight ball. Nobody lobbied for him to be spared the consequences of that failure. People understood that it was up to him and his team to grab their shovels and dig themselves out of the hole.

Racing is a tough sport, and sometimes inflicts unjust verdicts on undeserving teams. I can live with that fact, and Tony and Jeff should be able to, as well.

Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are long shots to win the 2006 Nextel Cup, but they are certainly not out of the running. In 2004, Johnson recorded a pair of back-of-the-pack finishes early in the Chase; a 37th at Talladega and a 32nd at Kansas. He trailed Kurt Busch by 247 points with six weeks to go, but staged a tremendous comeback, winning four of those final six races to finish just eight points behind champion Busch at season’s end. It’s going to be equally tough for him to win this year’s championship. But don’t we want the pinnacle of our sport to be difficult to achieve? The fact that one bad day (out of 10) can dash a team’s championship dream makes it infinitely sweeter when that dream comes true.

The Chase To The Nextel Cup is not supposed to be easy. In my opinion, the fact that Stewart, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., have each failed to qualify for the Chase in recent seasons validates the entire process.

This is not the National Hockey League, where losing teams routinely qualify for the playoffs, and are watched by virtually no-one outside their own families. This is NASCAR, where you’d better be damned close to perfect if you want to grab the brass ring. It’s not about beating 10 guys for 200 laps, it’s about beating all 43 of them for 500 miles, 10 weeks in a row.

Anything else is a cop-out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No Wonder Fernando's Leading The Points!

Check out this link to hear the fabulous singing Renault Formula One car. It's pretty awesome...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Grubb: "I Didn't Know What Was Going On."

NASCAR announced Tuesday that Busch Series driver Kevin Grubb has been suspended indefinitely, after failing to comply with the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. This is Grubb’s second indefinite suspension related to banned substances; his first coming in March of 2004, after a positive drug test. He was reinstated on June 7th of this year, and has participated in five Busch Series events. His reinstatement required Grubb to comply with the stipulations of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy, which include periodic testing. NASCAR says he was suspended for refusing to submit to those required tests.

Wednesday, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter offered additional insight on the story, saying that Grubb twice refused to submit to a drug test Friday night, prompting his suspension.

Grubb crashed on the second lap of Friday's race at Richmond, and when NASCAR officials approached him afterward, Hunter said, “he refused twice to submit to a test. Part of his reinstatement was that he would agree to testing, and our medical liaisons explained the consequences to him several times. He did not give any reason.”

Hunter said the test was random, and that NASCAR was not accusing Grubb of being under the influence of any illegal substance.

Grubb, meanwhile, said he was “foggy” from the impact of the crash, and does not remember much of what happened at the track. He said, “I had people pulling me in 20 different directions. I ended up leaving, from what I understand.”

After being treated and released at the track’s Infield Care Center, Grubb said he woke up Sunday morning feeling "terrible," and unable to remember what day it was. He said he then went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a concussion, adding, "I'm guessing that explains me acting crazy at the track. I didn't know what was going on."

Grubb said he called NASCAR officials Monday morning when he heard of his suspension, and was told to talk to Dr. David L. Black, the physician in charge of NASCAR's substance-abuse program. Grubb said he has yet to hear from Black, despite repeated phone calls.

He insists that he did not suffer a relapse, adding, "I've been clean the whole time." He said he offered to take a drug test on Monday, once he realized that he had been suspended. “I'm ready to put the ball in action,” he said. "I'm sure we'll get something situated out of that. I worked very hard to get my life back to where it was. I don't see it being thrown away in one night."

It remains to be seen whether or not he will get that chance.

Notes From All Over

Bye Bye Baze: As we predicted some time ago, NHRA Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore will not finish out the season at the wheel of Don Schumacher Racing's Matco Tools Dodge Charger Funny Car.

Schumacher announced today that Top Fuel and Sportsman driver "Fast Jack" Beckman will replace Bazemore at this weekend's Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, and for the remainder of the 2006 POWERade Series. The Matco Tools Funny Car will retain its sponsorship through the end of the season.

Schumacher announced the move, saying, "It was a very difficult decision to make. When Matco Tools informed me at the U.S. Nationals that it was moving to another team for the 2007 season, I was left with little choice but to look at my options for 2007 and beyond. I had already been in discussion with Jack for a number of months, as we were attempting to find a way to work together. When Matco Tools made its surprise announcement, I had to look towards the future, which helped me decide to place Jack in the Matco Tools Funny Car before the end of the season.”

Bazemore predicted the move yesterday, saying, "Nothing's been confirmed, but it looks unlikely that I'll be in Reading, or any other races this year unless something changes. I'm not upset at Don. I understand that he's doing what he has to do to keep the team properly funded. It's business, and I'm okay with that."

Bazemore’s revelation represents the latest turn in a story that saw Matco Tools announce that they will leave the Schumacher team at the end of the season, in favor of the new Top Fuel entry fielded by David Powers. Bazemore is rumored to be the top choice to drive that car.

Bad Case Of Red-Eye: Brandon Bernstein's latest "look" has nothing to do with hair color, eyebrow waxing, or any of the other metrosexual grooming procedures we take so much delight in lampooning. Instead, it stems from a pair of red contact lenses, whuch Bernstein believes help him see (and react to) the starting line Christmas Tree better than he has before.

Bernstein advanced all the way to the finals at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two weeks ago, before bowing to defending World Champion Tony Schumacher. Papa Kenny Bernstein -- who announced at Indy that he will return to the Funny Car wars next season in a flopper sponsored by Monster Energy Drink -- said the contacts made his son look like "an evil bug," and while the oversized crimson lenses do give Brandon a decided "Spawn Of Satan" look, it's results that count.

Flavio Briatore Is A Big, Fat Pansy: Just 48 hours after saying that the Formula One championship is rigged in favor of rival Ferrari, Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has now wussed out, saying his comments were taken out of context.

In the aftermath of a controversial qualifying penalty assessed to driver Fernando Alonso, Briatore said Sunday, "It has all been decided. They have decided to give the world championship to Schumacher, and that is what will be." Sunday's comments marked the second time this season that Briatore has alleged that the F1 "fix" is in, and Formula One's governing body reacted as one might expect. The FIA immediately said it would investigate Briatore’s remarks, hinting that he may be brought up on charges of bringing the sport's reputation into disrepute.

Today, Briatore put his tail between his legs and did an abrupt about-face, saying, "The comments which have been attributed to me in the press have been completely taken out of context. A joke remark has been turned into something it was not intended to be."

C'mon, Flavio, if you're man enough to say it (twice), you ought to be man enough to stand behind it.

With Lungs Like That, She MUST Be Able To Sing: Brooke Hogan will sing the National Anthem prior to next weekend’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Dover International Speedway. The pop singer and co-star of VH1's reality TV show "Hogan Knows Best" currently has two singles on the Billboard Pop 100 chart, including "Everything To Me," which peaked at No.1 recently.

Ms. Hogan -- who is quite the looker -- will be accompanied by her family at Dover, including her father; former WWE champion Hulk Hogan. I hope to assess her talent with my own eyes at the Monster Mile, if I can slip past her ridiculously overprotective (and insanely large) father long enough for a quick glimpse.

And Finally: NASCAR has announced the creation of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Scheduled to launch in May of next year, the series includes a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Canadian Tire, supporting a schedule of 10-12 races from May through October. The series will involve teams and drivers from the former CASCAR Series, with a schedule and point fund to be announced at a later date. NASCAR’s purchase of the CASCAR Series has been rumored for nearly two years, and could eventually pave the way for NASCAR to align its new northern sanction with either the NASCAR Busch East and/or Autozone West Series in years to come.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Misty Invades California! (And We've Got The Photos To Prove It!)

"Hey Everybody!"

Sirius Speedway favorite Misty, her husband Heath and friend Erika trekked to California Speedway last weekend to take part in the brutally hot NASCAR Nextel Cup Series SONY HD 500 race weekend, and tracked down Dave at the MRN Radio trailer to say hello.

The whole gang got a guided tour of Motor Racing Network mobile broadcast facility, where the air conditioning was a big hit. They met a number of MRN personalities -- including frequent Sirius Speedway guest host Mike Bagley and engineer Chris "Cheesecake" Desrochers -- and posed for a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Misty came to the track dressed to impress, decked out in her one-of-a-kind "Sirius Speedway Rocks My World" shirt, and a few strands of Ryan Newman beads. Don't ask how she got those, she's absolutely not telling.

She got to meet Ryan's mom during a midday stop at his souvenir trailer, but Newman himself did not do much to make it a happy weekend, finishing 33rd and dropping another spot to 16th in points.

For more pics of the Sirius Speedway gang, click on the Photo Album HERE.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bazemore and Matco; You Do The Math

Despite an opening round of eliminations that was jam-packed with upsets, the biggest news of the weekend in drag racing had nothing to do with what happened on the track at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Matco Tools turned the sport on its collective ear Friday, announcing that they will sever their longstanding relationship with Don Schumacher Racing next season to back a new Top Fuel entry out of the David Powers Racing stable. No driver has yet been named for the Powers entry, though current Matco Tools Funny Car driver – and Don Schmacher employee -- Whit Bazemore admitted that he has spoken to Powers about coming aboard next season, as a teammate to Hot Rod Fuller.

Don Schumacher told ESPN2 Saturday that he was stunned by the move; saying he had learned of Matco’s decision just hours before. Further, Schumacher said he has been in negotiations with Matco for months, and believed that they were close to a deal. In his words, ”I’m shocked. We had a few minor details to work out, but I had no reason to expect anything like this.”

Schumacher said he will begin the search for a new sponsor immediately, but when asked about Bazemore’s continued status with the team, said only that Bazemore remains his driver “at this time.”

I have no first-hand information on what happened between Matco Tools and Schumacher Racing. However, I’ve been involved in motorsports long enough to read between the lines. Follow the bouncing ball, if you can…

Bazemore has underachieved in the Schumacher Funny Car camp, as compared to teammates Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps.

Bazemore’s relationship with Capps deteriorated to the point of physical violence earlier this season.

Capps is contending for the 2006 PowerAde World Championship, while Bazemore languishes eighth in points, 382 behind leader John Force at the start of the weekend.

Schumacher has spoken only in the vaguest terms about Bazemore’s future with the team, while Bazemore has admitted speaking with other operations.

Bazemore spoke glowingly of the Powers team Saturday, while admitting only that he enjoys a “good relationship” with Matco Tools, and might be interested in driving the new Matco rail.

I was no math whiz in school, but it appears to me that as far as Bazemore is concerned, it adds up something like this:

Good relationship with sponsor + deteriorating relationship with owner = unexpected jump by sponsor to new team.

Did Whit Bazemore throw Don Schumacher under the bus, stealing Matco Tools in an effort to ensure that he has a ride next season? It’s impossible to know for sure.

But like the old saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s probably a duck.”

Saturday, September 02, 2006

This Should Concern Us All....

Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetto della Sport says Jacques Villeneuve is getting closer to a deal with a NASCAR team. The Canadian driver found himself on the Formula One unemployment line last month, when the BMW Sauber team sent him packing after the German Grand Prix. La Gazzetto reports that Villeneuve is in talks with a NASCAR team, but does not specify whether it is a Nextel Cup, Busch, Craftsman Truck operation.

God help us.