Posted on: June 10, 2008 1:28 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2008 1:33 pm
 

Texas TV coverage a disservice to Indy fans

OK, I know I should have written this at least a couple of days ago, but something always came up before I could get to it. However, I didn't want to let this go without throwing my two cents out there.

Anybody try to catch the IndyCar race on Saturday night? ESPN (or ESPN2 as it were) scheduled a racing double-header with the Nationwide race, with the Indy race scheduled to go on air at 10 p.m.. Of course the Nationwide race ran long, as races are wont to do somtimes, and didn't quite fit into the window that ESPN had planned out.

So what does ESPN do? Does it move the start of the Indy race to another member of its family of networks, oh I don't know, like ESPN Classic? Nope, it tells fans they can catch the race on ESPN360. 1. I bet more than half the audience had no clue what ESPN360 was, and 2. How many people have access to ESPN360? My particular internet provider does not provide me access.

Now fortunately for some, indycar.com was making live video available. However, the quality was poor and didn't work particularly well on my computers.

In any case, when the Nationwide race did end, I figured ESPN would join the race in progress. I mean, after Indianpolis, many consider Texas the best race on the schedule. At first I had no clue what was going on. I heard live audio from the in-progress race, but the pictures were the typical prerace packaged video. I thought it was a temporary glitch and that someone had managed to flip the wrong video feed. How sadly mistaken I was, for when ESPN returned from commercial it was prerace commentary and interviews we were seeing -- and now hearing.

No live race. I couldn't believe it. And there was no note that it was tape delayed anywhere on the screen that I could remember. No more scroll that said if you actually wanted to watch live go to ESPN360 or indycar.com. Basically it was played as if it was live. I'm sure some folks were fooled or didn't care that it wasn't live.

Was I the only one taken back by this?

It was bad enough that race was penned in for a 10 p.m. ET start time -- not exactly the best way to grow a fanbase if you ask me -- but then ESPN can't show it live? I'm curious as to what IndyCar officials thought of this move.

And if that wasn't a big enough kick in the gut, the race ended under caution. Just like the previous week's event.

I'd say for all the good that's happened to IndyCar this season with the merger and Danica winning, the events of Texas this past weekend shows the series still has a lot of growing up to do. Basically the IndyCar series played second fiddle to a second tier NASCAR series. Not good.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: IndyCar
 
Posted on: May 23, 2008 11:27 am
 

Would you like to see a Cup race at Kentucky?

By now I'm sure you've heard that Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. have purchased Kentucky Speedway.

But does that mean a Cup race is coming to Kentucky? Well, I can't imagine he bought it for any other reason. I have to believe he has a plan up his sleeve.

The only way Kentucky will land a Cup date is if he takes a date away from a track he already owns (with NASCAR approval of course). These tracks include: Atlanta, Bristol, Infineon, Las Vegas, Lowe's, New Hampshire and Texas. Atlanta and New Hampshire would be the most likely culprits. But according to Pete Pistone, Smith hasn't told the heads of those tracks of any plans to take a race away. Of course, Smith is pretty good at keeping secrets.

Another option that may be in the cards is for Smith to purchase independently owned Dover or Pocono. Both tracks currently host two events a season. I'm hoping among hopes that he's buying Pocono and moving one of those dates. I've just never been fan of the races at that track and it certainly doesn't need two races.

Stay tuned. NASCAR has been talking about shaking up the schedule for a few seasons and I think 2009 could be the year.

 

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 16, 2008 11:53 am
Edited on: May 17, 2008 6:24 pm
 

How did you become a fan of racing?

Though I grew up in central Florida, just an hour or so away from Daytona International Speedway, I sort of stumbled upon racing.

I touched on this in Tuesday's Feud of the Week feature, but the first race I recall watching was the 1987 All-Star race. I was 12.

I'm not sure exactly how or why I started watching the race. I think my dad was watching something on the living room TV that I did't care for so I went to my room to watch my little bedroom TV. Now this was before the days of 300+ cable channels. I may have had -- at best -- a choice of about 10 channels.

Now the All-Star race was probably the perfect race to stumble upon to make a fan of somebody because it's no holds barred. This particular event would go down in NASCAR's annuls as the race of Dale Earnhardt's famed "Pass in the Grass." I was amazed, it looked like so much fun, all the beating and banging. And I was awed by Earnhardt's determination.

I was hooked. Especially by the driver of that yellow and blue No. 3 car. I just had to see what he'd do next, and he rarely disappointed.

But I was pretty alone in my racing fanhood through my youth. Through middle school and high school I can't recall knowing anyone who enjoyed racing as I did. It wasn't until I landed at the sports department of the Orlando Sentinel where racing was more socially accepted. Of course, it was the sports department, so what would you expect. 

To this day though, even though NASCAR has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, I don't see it as accepted by the mainstream as football, baseball and basketball. I think part of the problem is that -- at least for most of us -- it's not just something you can go out and do in your backyards.

Becoming a race fan is nearly all vicarious. Few of us will have a chance feel what it's like to drive a racecar like we can throw a football, shoot a basketball or hit a baseball.

In any case, I would like to know how you got into racing. Was it just something your family enjoyed since the time you were born? Like me, did you stumble upon a race in your youth and become hooked? Was attending a race your turning point? Just how and when did you become a fan?

I'd like to hear from you. Add your comment below.

 

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:46 am
 

So what's the deal with Biffle?

NASCAR Silly Season continues to heat up with the rumors and speculation growing more interesting by the day.

On Monday, a report surfaced that Joe Gibbs Racing may be interested in Greg Biffle's services. The same report said Gibbs made a run at Carl Edwards before he resigned with Roush Racing.

Publicly, Biffle has stated he wants to stay with Roush Racing, but he's been pretty tough on the organization at times, including Saturday at Darlington when pit miscues and a parts failure knocked him out.

If it's true that Gibbs is interested, it may not be a bad move. It could be considered a lateral move for Biffle, but if he's upset with the equipment he's getting a Roush, a change of scenery would do him good.

But the interesting aspect of this report is that it sure appears JGR is preparing for Stewart's departure.

So a checklist of the top drivers on the rumor wire include David Ragan, Biffle, Stewart, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex. I know all these drivers say they want to stay right where they're at, but I'd be shocked if everything stays status quo.

Here's my latest guess on where drivers end up:

Ragan -- likely stays with Roush; possibly jumps to RCR

Biffle -- Roush or Gibbs

Stewart -- partnership with Hendrick or RCR

Newman -- Penske or RCR

Truex -- DEI or Hendrick

The RCR ride is the tricky one. While it's a great opportunity with a top organization, it won't begin next season in the top 35 in owner points. So even for a great qualifier like Newman, there's always that possibility rain could cancel qualifying, knocking him out of the race. So drivers currently in a ride that's in the top 35 like Newman, Biffle, Truex and Ragan really have to weigh whether a move to RCR is wise. It's why Bobby Labonte (who has been long rumored for the ride) or Stewart make a bit more sense because they have the champions provisional to fall back on.

Of course, there have been maneuverings before where owner points were transferred, such as the DEI-Ginn deal last year, so RCR may have something up its sleeve yet to make sure the car is top 35 by the start of next season.

I can't wait to see how this turns out. It has gotten to the point where I'm as interested in Silly Season as I am the racing.

Posted on: May 3, 2008 4:28 pm
 

List of candidates for RCR dwindles

A few weeks ago, a couple of reports said Bobby Labonte was signed, sealed and delivered to the fourth team Richard Childress Racing. It made sense because RCR had signed General Mills, Labonte's current sponsor on the 43 car at Petty Enterprises, as the new cars sponsor.

But today, AP is reporting that Labonte has agreed to an extension with Petty Enterprises. Neither Labonte or officials with Petty confirmed the report.

I'm thinking that this will bear out and Labonte will remain with Petty. So just who will man the seat of the fourth RCR car?

Carl Edwards came off the market Friday, and if you believe Greg Biffle, he has every intention of re-signing with Roush as well, going so far as to say he's not even looking elsewhere.

I can believe it. RCR is probably the only team that can offer him an immediate chance to win besides Roush. But if he switched teams, he'd be under the gun the first five races to qualify on speed. I don't think that's a position he wants to be in because you can never account for weather. Unless the money is absolutely out of this world -- and I don't think it would be for Biffle's services -- he's in the best situation he can be in right now.

Now I gotta believe that Tony Stewart is at the very top of RCR's wish list. I think RCR is in a good position to offer him an intriguing package, but I'm sure Stewart will have plenty of similar offers. And there's also the little problem of whether Gibbs would let him out of his ride early. So while Stewart is intriguing, there are several hoops to jump through.

The next  best free-agent on the market is Ryan Newman. He has been linked to RCR in past rumors. Despite his Daytona 500 victory, he hasn't had the season he'd hoped for thus far. He has been with Penske for his entire nine-year Cup career, so there's some loyalty there, but a change of scenery might do him well just like it did Jeff Burton. He'd have to qualify on speed the first five races. But barring weather, that wouldn't be much of a problem for him because he's one of the best qualifiers in the series.

If Childress were to go a little younger that could put a driver like Reed Sorenson into the mix. Ganassi hasn't kept secret his disappointment with all his Cup teams' results this season. It's not that I think Ganassi wants to get rid of Sorenson, but if things don't turn around, he definitely could go in a different direction. I'm not quite sure where Sorenson's contract stands. He could choose to leave of his own volition and if RCR offers him a deal he should jump. Though I know they're working hard there, Ganassi Racing still has yet to show it's a top tier Cup operation.

David Ragan could be a target if Roush drags his feet while trying to decide who should stay between him and Jamie McMurray with the four-team limit nearing. Accoding to Jayski, Ragan's contract is up at the end of the year as is sponsor AAA. So the Roush operation has a lot of contract details to work out.

Scott Wimmer is doing part-time work for RCR in the Nationwide Series and select Cup races. Considering the lack of a full-time Nationwide ride for Wimmer, I don't see him getting a full-time Cup gig.

 

Posted on: May 2, 2008 2:59 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2008 3:04 pm
 

Edwards signs extension with Roush-Fenway Racing

Carl Edwards announced Friday at Richmond that he signed an extension with Roush-Fenway Racing. He wouldn't say how many years, only that it was multi-year.

You didn't hear much about him even looking -- his services would certainly have been high demand. But Roush seems like a good place for him. He and crew chief Bob Osborne have proved a potent combo -- and should be in the championship hunt until the bitter end this season.

Next up on the Roush front is getting a deal with Greg Biffle worked out. I'm not sure what the real story is here. One on hand, I've heard he wants to re-sign. But I've also heard that he's frustrated because he thinks Roush focuses too much attention to make sure Edwards and Matt Kenseth's cars are up to par and not enough to improve the No. 16 car.

I'm not sure what to believe, but there's really only one team I could see him jumping to and that would be RCR. Otherwise there aren't many top tier teams looking for drivers. Biffle is a good driver, but not one teams would necessarily go out of their way to make room for like they would Tony Stewart. DEI might have interest, but I don't think it fits Biffle. He wants to win now, and DEI hasn't proven to be consistent winners.

But for Roush, Edwards was the most important piece to the puzzle. He's the one they need to keep happy now and into the future.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion

WHAT’S YOUR CONTRACT STATUS?  “I signed my contract yesterday, so I’m staying with Roush.  I looked at everything and I talked to everybody and, for me, the number one thing is looking into the future and saying, ‘Where can I win the most races and have the most success?’  I was honored at the people who I got to speak with and I just feel like for me personally this is where I want to be for the near future and we got it done.  It’s good.  I’m real happy about it.  It’s a huge relief.  It really wasn’t that painful.  Geoff Smith and I get along really well and we just pretty much sat down and he’s really easy for me to deal with.  It took us about a week-and-a-half of going back and forth with just little things and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world for the contract I got.” 

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO NEGOTIATE THIS YOURSELF – WITHOUT AN AGENT?  “It’s really neat.  If I was dealing with someone that I didn’t trust or that I felt like I couldn’t just kind of air everything out with, then I’d probably have to have an agent, but dealing with Geoff from day one has been very easy at Roush for me, so it was really pretty simple.  Besides, I feel like I know what I need more than anyone else.  I know what I want to make me happy and this is cool.  I’m very excited about being involved with Ford, too, because from what I understand about their corporate culture right now, they’re on their way up and it’s gonna be good here so I want to be a part of that.  I want to help out.” 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT ROUSH THAT’S WHAT YOU WANTED?  “There are a few things.  Robbie Reiser running the place, that’s a big deal for me.  More and more I’m understanding how important that is.  Things we’ve been doing with this car of tomorrow to make it better, I feel like it’s very efficient how everyone is working and it’s making the cars faster, and I feel like our engine program has a lot in the near future that’s gonna be great.  Plus, my pit crew, I’ve struggled since I’ve been here with changing people and having different pit crew guys, and I feel like finally with Robbie managing that I’ve got a group of guys that are going to be really good over the next three years.  I kind of know everything and where it’s headed.  We’re winning right now and I think it’s gonna be better, so that kind of made it easy for me.” 

HOW MANY YEARS? “I’ll just say it’s multi-year.” 

LONG-TERM?  “A week is a long time around here (laughing).  It’s a great contract.  It’s a dream contract for me and I’m really excited about it.” 

 

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Carl Edwards
 
Posted on: May 1, 2008 1:02 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2008 1:05 pm
 

Lauren Wallace

Any self-respecting NASCAR fan knows Lauren Wallace, a distant cousin (?) -- I thought it was nephew --  of Mike Wallace made famous in a series of commercials for Geico.

Many have wondered whether he really is related to Wallace. Well, the fact of the matter is, he is merely an actor -- and there's a nice little story about his vault to fame in the Richmond Time Dispatch -- http://www.inrich.com/cva/ric/sport
s.apx.-content-articles-RTD-2008-05
-01-0158.html

My favorite quote from the commercials: "Listen, go-kart track, grocery store, those remote controlled boats; when it comes to Mike Wallace. the story ends with me putting him in the wall."

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Mike Wallace
 
Posted on: May 1, 2008 12:47 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2008 1:04 pm
 

Donuts with Kevin Harvick

I was passed along this video of Kevin Harvick doing donuts with a couple of passengers in the backseat. Let's just say it doesn't end well for the passengers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p1KsoJMcqg

Category: Auto Racing
 
 
 
 
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