Posted on: January 14, 2009 11:40 am

The curious case of Earnhardt-Ganassi

What is going on at the supposed merged operations of Earnhardt and Ganassi?

In the two months since the announcement that the two organizations were merging, there has been very little information forthcoming. Where's the direction?

When Bobby Labonte was released by Petty Enterprises after the season, everybody assumed he was headed to Earnhardt-Ganassi. In a previous blog I remarked that it seemed like the perfect fit, sort of like what RCR has with Jeff Burton.

As late as Tuesday morning, it appeared EGR was finally about to sign him on the dotted line with multiple reports that EGR was going to put him in the 8 car and shift Aric Almirola to the 41 car.

By Tuesday night he was the new driver of the 96 car for Hall of Fame Racing.

Ummm, what?

Reportedly Labonte was on his way to a lunch meeting on Tuesday with EGR to work out the final details when HOF swooped in.

Is EGR that much of a mess? Or did Labonte just grow tired of getting the runaround? HOF accomplished in a matter of hours what EGR couldn't get done over several weeks.

The merger between Earnhardt and Ganassi was supposed to save the two teams, but it's definitely not off to a very good start.

Posted on: January 9, 2009 12:22 am
Edited on: January 9, 2009 10:37 am

3D no substitute for being at BCS title game

Did you know that Thursday night's BCS title game marked the first time in history a live sporting event was made available in 3D to the general public?

Now some of you might recall that the NFL experiemented with the technology during a Raiders-Chargers game in early December, but that game was only shown in theaters in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

The BCS title game in 3D was availabe in 82 theaters across the country and I was one of a few hundred to witness this history-making night at a theater in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., a couple hours north of where the actual championship game was being played.

I wanted to be wowwed. I wanted it to be the next best thing to being at the stadium. It's definitely cost effective at $25 vs. hundreds for a nosebleed seat at Dolphin Stadium.

Unfortuantely it didn't come close to meeting my, perhaps too high, expectations. I'm not even sure it was much better than watching it on my big screen at home.

I had recently viewed Bolt in 3D with my son at the theather a few weeks back and had come away impressed. Prior to that experience, whenever I had watched any 3D movies, usually at the theme parks, I saw double. I wasn't seeing true 3D.

But Bolt was a different story. It was the best 3D I had ever seen. Which was why I such high hopes for championship game in 3D. I was certain that I was going to witness the wave of the future.

Now I'm not so sure about that.

For starters, and I don't know if this was just my particular theater on this night, the clarity wasn't quite there. I expected it to appear as if I was looking through a window. But it didn't quite reach that lofty standard.

Close ups looked best, nice and sharp. But the further away the camera pulled away from the action, the less sharp it looked. I also had a problem of feeling cross-eyed at times, especially when viewing a group of the red-jersey clad Sooners. Others complained of the same problem. About three hours into the game, my eyes couldn't take much more.

More easily correctable are issues with direction.

The video feed is not the same as that sent out to the Fox TV audience. Totally different cameras and camera angles. Most of the 3D cameras were situated on the Gators side of the field and angled low, I'm guessing to give the audience a sense that they're on the field with the players.

Which isn't bad when there's a timeout or teams are huddled up. But when it's a live play, perspective is lost.

One particulary poor angle the director used a lot came from behind the Gators bench. But players blocked your view so that you couldn't see the sidelines to gauge whether a player was inbounds or out of bounds. There were also cameras positioned behind the defense or offense. But again, the perspective was such that you couldn't tell how many yards were gained on a play.

Also, unlike what you see on network TV, there was no permanent graphical score, clock, down and distance on the screen. They'd flash down and distance and then it would go away so that the whole screen would be taken up by the action. But you never knew how much time was left in the quarter unless the announcers, Kenny Albert and Tim Ryan in this case, mentioned it, which they rarely did.

Albert was too busy making silly references to the 3D. When they were chatting about a player's speed, Albert wondered if he'd be faster in 3D. Did a player's tatoo look better in 3D? Is the crowd louder in 3D? So on and so forth. Ugh.

Overall, I'd give the experience a C. There's definitely room for improvement.

If you want to judge for yourself, you might want to check out the NBA All-Star Saturday night events (dunk contest, etc., not the actual game) in 3D, which, like the BCS title game, will be shown in theaters across the country in February.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 23, 2008 4:28 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2008 4:39 pm

All I want for Christmas ...

... is a Miami Dolphins victory over the stinkin' Jets.

(Well, that and the Dark Knight DVD)

As a Dolphins fan, there is no team I despise more than the Jets.Victory would be so sweet, not only because it would come against the Jests, but because it would make the Dolphins AFC East champions. Not many people thought the team could make such a turnaround after last year's 1-15 season.

Once Miami landed Chad Pennington, I actually thought they could challenge for a playoff spot. Last year's Dolphins were a 5-11, 6-10 team in a 1-15 team's clothing. There were several close games along the way, but cruddy coaching and a boat-load of injuries led them down the path to a 1-15 season.

So while there is no mistaking that the Dolphins were bad in 2007, I didn't think they were 1-15 bad. I thought with the addition of Jake Long, a healthy duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the backfield, and a QB in Pennington who knew how to protect the ball, the offense was going to be improved.

On top of that was the last-place schedule the Dolphins drew. I was somewhat concerned that they had to end the season with four of their final five games on the road, but so far they've handled that stretch quite well.

With all of that, before the season I honestly predicted a 10-6 season -- with the caveat that they stayed healthy (which they have) because they're not particularly deep -- with a shot at a wild-card (believe it or not, last season I predicted a 1-13-2 season, so I know my team).

Tom Brady's injury and a Jets choke job have opened the door for an AFC East title, so come on Santa Claus (or should I say Brian Vickers), make it happen!!!

What's that you say? Brian Vickers? Santa Claus? What are you talking about De Los Santos?

Well, I have discovered evidence that NASCAR's Brian Vickers is Santa Claus (or Kris Kringle). Apparently, NASCAR racing helps fill the void.

Behold ...

Brian Vickers is Santa Claus!!!


I've actually been saving this for about six months. When I first saw Vickers with his beard, I knew he reminded me of somebody, but I couldn't quite figure out who. Then in the middle of summer it just hit me one day, Santa Claus from Santa Claus is Coming to Town!!!

And, of course, Red Bull gives you wings so he probably gives the reindeer a little bit of the sponsor juice and -- boom! -- he's airborn delivering toys to all the good boys and girls of the world.

And with that I would like to thank everybody -- all 10 of you -- who manage to find their way to this little spec of the World Wide Web.

Have a healthy, happy holiday and I'll see you in the New Year.

(Oh, and if you haven't already, be sure to vote for the best specialty paint scheme)

Posted on: December 11, 2008 11:02 am
Edited on: December 11, 2008 11:17 am

Is Labonte headed to Earnhardt-Ganassi ?

The wheels of change continue in NASCAR as Bobby Labonte and Petty Enterprises have parted ways.

The leading rumor is that Labonte will land with the merged teams of DEI and Ganassi giving them a team of Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya and Bobby Labonte.

That sounds like a rock-solid lineup to me, sort of reminding me of what they have at RCR. Labonte in the role of Jeff Burton, Truex in the role of Kevin Harvick, Almirola as Clint Bowyer and Montoya as Casey Mears.

If they really work together I think this is a team that could make some noise. But first Labonte has to sign on the dotted line (and  I can't really imagine where else he would go). I think like Burton, the move could provide a second wind for Labonte, who has been wasting away at Petty Enterprises.

As for Petty Enterprises, this move seems like a forebearer to a merger with GEM, unless they fold altogether, which would really be quite sad. The rumor there is that only the 43 car would survive the merge with A.J. Allmendinger, who had a solid run as a fill-in in the 10 car over the final month of the season, getting the seat.

The GEM-Petty team would then have a lineup of Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and (possibly) Allmendinger. I can' t say I'm as impressed with that lineup as the merged Ganassi teams.

As always, stay tuned.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 5:05 pm

U.S. automakers bailout

So in a comment in my last blog, Hawks N Cards asked for my take on the possible bailout of Detroit's Big 3 automakers.

I actually think NASCAR is part of the reason Detroit is a sinking ship. For all intents and purposes, NASCAR has served as a marketing arm of the automakers, but the old mantra "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" hasn't held true for many years now.

Manufacturers had been losing identity gradually over the years, but the  COT threw the knockout punch. The new car has rendered manufacturer identity null and void. Now in the Sprint Cup world, aside from decals, a Toyota looks like a Chevy looks like a Ford looks like a Dodge.

From and R&D perspective there's little room to innovate based on NASCAR's strict specs.

It used to be true that NASCAR fans were a loyal bunch but there sure are a growing number of Toyotas sporting Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt stickers.

It's great that Earnhardt Jr. drivers a Chevy and all, but consumers aren't blindly loyal anymore. Especially in these economic times, the buying public is going to flock to a more fuel efficient product that sells for less. Hello? Anybody in Detroit listening?

Now don't get me wrong, while the cars may not looking anything like a Chevy, Ford or Dodge, having their badge associated with a top-tier talent is still a strong form of advertising. But is it enough to offset the costs?

And pulling out completely could have its harsh negatives as well, such as allowing rivals to gain a stronger foothold with the NASCAR crowd. But is it addition by subtraction? Toyota was able to thrive without being involved in NASCAR until just recently.

NASCAR is just a small piece of the pie -- but I believe a piece nonetheless -- for why Detroit finds itself in this mess. However, mismanagement and complete lack of foresight are the biggest reasons for the U.S. automakers failures.

Ever hear of the law of supply and demand? How many gas guzzling SUVs did they think the American public needed?

I'm thinking (hoping?) that when the United States climbs out of this economic abyss, it will be better for it. Unfortunately, it's a greedy world we live in and people will try to milk a good idea for all its worth rather than build upon and grow that idea. Without innovation even the best product is destined to eventually fade away.

As for what the future holds for Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge in NASCAR, I'm guessing (key word -- guessing) that Dodge  eventually throws in the towel, while Chevy and Ford pressure NASCAR to give the new car manufacturer body stylings so that they actually resemble a street car again. Sort of what they were trying to do with a renovated Nationwide car before the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: November 20, 2008 5:24 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2008 5:27 pm

Kenseth signs extension; McMurray a lame duck?

According to a team press release, Roush Fenway Racing has signed Matt Kenseth to a multi-year extension. Kenseth was set to become a free agent after the 2009 season along with Jamie McMurray.

With Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle also signing multi-year extensions during the 2008 season, it would appear McMurray is the odd man out when Roush Fenway must get down to the four-car limit after the 2009 season.

Why not David Ragan? Well, with UPS signing on, it's believed they're looking for a little stability so they can build a long-term program with their driver. While it's unknown if Ragan is signed beyond 2009, unless he takes a big step backward from his much improved 2008 performance, it's doubtful UPS would be agreeable to a driver change.

Posted on: November 20, 2008 12:16 pm

Mailbag: Jimmie vs. Carl

This was one fan's take on Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards]

From: Dan

Johnson and Edwards are equally talented drivers, but until Edwards becomes more like Johnson,patient and calculating,instead of being a ramrod,with all else being equal, he'll always finish second to Johnson.




I think the fact Edwards pulled off two “fuel mileage” victories during the Chase shows he’s not just a mash the gas pedal sort of driver.


Now if you’re simply thinking about Talladega, then the real argument is that he needs to improve his restrictor-plate prowess and with that I could not argue.


But, in that same token, when it comes to restrictor-plate racing, so much of it is pure dumb luck. Look at Johnson. Since winning the Daytona 500 in 2006 he has followed up with finishes of 32nd, 39th, 10th, 27th and 23rd.


So I'm not really going to hold the lack of restrictor-plate sucess against anybody.


Thanks for the e-mail, though I’d have to disagree.
Posted on: November 16, 2008 10:17 pm

Is Johnson just a product of NASCAR's system?

Jimmie Johnson added his name to the history books with his third consecutive championship, but for many fans, those championships come with an asterisk.

For better or worse, Johnson is a child of the Chase era. The Chase, of course, is derided by many traditionalist NASCAR fans.

I myself wrestle with my feelings for the Chase. I love the idea of the Chase ... in theory. In practice, not so much.

Since the inception of the Chase, we've continued to track the standings under the traditional point system on the site. Check them out for yourself.

In three of the five seasons -- including two of Johnson's three championship seasons -- the driver who won the Chase, would not have won the title under the cumulative standings.

Jeff Gordon would be a six-time Cup series champion if not for the Chase. Last year, Gordon had one of the greatest seasons in the history of NASCAR, finishing outside the top 10 in just six races. It would have amounted to a 353-point victory in the final standings of the traditional point system. He wound up finishing 77 points behind Johnson in the Chase.

Gordon was also a loser in the very first version of the Chase, which was won by Kurt Busch, who would've finished a distant fourth, 247 points Gordon, under the traditional points.

This season, Carl Edwards came up 69 points short of Johnson in the Chase. In the cumulative battle, Edwards was a 16-point winner, and that's in spite of a 100-point penalty.

Which brings me back to my original point. Does the Chase taint Johnson's titles?

Sure it's debatable whether  winning three consecutive titles under the tradtional system like Cale Yarborough is a greater feat than winning three straight under the Chase system (in fact, expect Pete Pistone and I to do just that on Tuesday), but in terms of grading Johnson's greatness, does it/should it matter?

It's not Johnson's fault he's operating under different rules than those of the past.

But in the hear and now, he's running under the same system as everybody else. And he, crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the 48 team have flourished and done what they've needed to do to win the titles under the given system.

If you want to knock Johnson's championships, that's your perogative, but there can be no denying his 40 career Cup victories.

And that's in 255 races. A winning percentage of nearly 16%.

His 40 wins already rank him 15th all-time. At his current pace, it stands to reason that in two or three more years he'll crack the top 10 with Rusty Wallace' 55 wins, which ranks eighth, not too far out of reach.

And then it's time to tackle the pantheon of NASCAR's greats, with Dale Earnhardt's 76 victories seventh all-time.

So while traditionalists may try to knock how Johnson has come about his three championships, there should be no question that he's one of the all-time NASCAR greats -- under any system.

Category: Auto Racing
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or