Tuesday, April 21, 2015

RIP Steve Byrnes

Man, Steve Byrnes gave many a fan a fantastic television experience while watching NASCAR. And it is such a shame that a thing such as cancer took him, along with anyone else we know. As far as I am concerned, cancer is beatable. The only limitation is the attention it gets from the public.

I've always said during breast cancer awareness month, with an estimated two to four million people watching a race, any one day, we can take but a moment to contribute a dollar. A single, measly dollar. It does not seem like much, but to be honest, if we all ganged up on contributing, we could donate millions to the cause in a single night while watching a race. Or even while mourning a beloved television personality.

Instead of being sad, take heart, stand up and donate in Steve's name, whether his name be on the donation or just in your heart.  I was lucky enough to have met him on several occasions while covering events for On Pit Row. He was quite the man, driven to do his job and make sure the television audience was well informed.

Below is a statement from NASCAR:

"Statement from NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France on the Passing of Steve Byrnes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2015) – “NASCAR extends its condolences to the many friends, FOX Sports colleagues and family of Steve Byrnes. Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the last three decades, Steve’s work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.

“His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity, and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family. Simply stated, we’ll miss Steve dearly. Our thoughts are especially with his wife Karen and son Bryson during this difficult time.”"
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Friday, April 17, 2015

President Obama to Honor NASCAR Champion Kevin Harvick

Via press release

On Tuesday, April 21, President Obama will welcome Kevin Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team members to the White House to honor his 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. This visit will continue the tradition begun by President Obama of honoring athletes and sports teams for their efforts to give back to their communities.

WHAT:          President Obama to Honor NASCAR Champion Kevin Harvick

WHEN:          Tuesday, April 21 at 2:45 PM

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RYAN NEWMAN's Team Penalized Hard For Tire Modification

Someone took a chance and now Ryan Newman is paying dearly for it with a 50-point penalty:

via press release

The No. 31 team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been penalized for rules infractions discovered as a result of NASCAR’s post-event tire audit conducted following the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway.

These infractions amount to a P5 level penalty and violate the following Sections in the 2015 NASCAR rule book:

12.1: Actions detrimental to stock car racing

20.16: Wheels and tires

            A. Any device, modification, or procedure to the tire or wheel, including the valve stem hardware, that is used to release pressure, beyond normal pressure adjustments, from the tire and/or inner shield, will not be permitted.

20.16.2: Tires

            F. Modifications to the tires, by treatment or any other means, will not be permitted.

Section 12.5.3.5.1 lists P5 Penalty Violation examples that could include but are not limited to:

A. Effecting, modifying and/or altering the standard tires in any way, other than through authorized means such as tire pressure adjustments within the recommended range, permitted tire cooling when mounted on the race vehicle; or heat-cycling on the race vehicle on the race track earlier in the event.

12.5.3.5.2: Minimum P5 Penalty Options (includes all four points below):

            A. Loss of 50 championship driver and owner points, regardless of whether the violation occurred during a Championship race or not

            B. $75,000-$125,000 fine

            C. Suspension for the next six series Championship Races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that time period, for the crew chief and any other team members as determined by NASCAR

            D. Probation through the end of the calendar year for all suspended members, or for a six-month period following the issuance of the penalty notice if that period spans across two consecutive seasons

12.5.3.5.3: P5 Level infractions detected during post-race inspection:

If the infraction is detected during post-race inspection, then the following penalty elements will be added to those listed previously in this section:

            A. Loss of an additional 25 Championship driver and owner points; regardless of whether it was a Championship Race or not

            B. Loss of an additional $50,000

As a result of these violations, crew chief Luke Lambert has been fined a total of $125,000 ($75,000 plus $50,000), suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that time period, and been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. James Bender, team tire technician, and Philip Surgen, team engineer, have been suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship races, plus any non-championship races or special events which might occur during that time period, and been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31.

Driver Ryan Newman and car owner Richard Childress each have been penalized with the loss of 75 (50 plus 25) championship driver and championship car owner points.


“NASCAR takes very seriously its responsibility to govern and regulate the rules of the sport in order to ensure competitive balance,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “We’ve been very clear that any modifications to race vehicle tires is an unacceptable practice and will not be tolerated.”
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Monday, February 23, 2015

The 2015 DAYTONA 500: A Review With A Boring Finish

Well, the 2015 Daytona 500 has come and gone. Speedweeks has come and gone. Testing, the Duels and qualifying and the race itself has finally started the 2015 NASCAR TV season.

Up until the 500 itself, the race coverage was over on FoxSports 1. IT was interesting over there. We'd watch about 30 minutes of event then swap to their sports desk where these two guys would reiterate what had just happened and tell us what will be coming up.

That sports desk thing needs work. It felt awkward, like they felt like they were out of their element covering events in NASCAR. My favorite flub was after Kurt Busch got suspended from NASCAR, it was between 9 and 10 at night, when these two guys told us about Kurt, and how they would give us live updates throughout the night on the situation. I was thinking to myself that if there are live updates at 1 AM, well... OK?

All the races except the cup race were on FoxSports 1, and as many have said in various sources, having most of the coverage taking place on a cable channel many folks don't receive if they can't afford it, is an unfortunate development.

But then TV is about marketing and the advertising, and advertisers want viewers with money, so in the long run, they don't care about the free or basic cable packages. At least the 500 was on FOX itself.

Throughout the weekend we learned various aspects about new rules that are in place for the drivers. One of them is that there are no officials standing on pit road watching teams change right side lugnuts.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

DANICA PATRICK's Unfair Advantage On Pit Road


Danica Patrick, for all the hype that she generates, despite her middle-of-the-road performance, has a serious advantage in NASCAR, and that's when she tries to start shit after a race.

During all the practices and events leading up the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin had a few on-track incidents. But after the Duel where Denny tapped her out in a corner, wrecking her, well, she had something to say to Mr. Hamlin.

She charged right up through the crowd on pit road, and double fist grabbed Hamlin's firesuit and started yelling at him, inquiring as to why he wrecked her.

All the while, her boss Tony Stewart, was in the background muttering something about seeing the replay first.

TELL ME: How many other drivers do you whink would be allowed to charge through the crowd towards another driver? How many drivers would be allowed to grab someone's firesuit, fist clutching their material, and yell at them?

How many drivers would have shrugged their shoulders and with arms outstretched and palms up, trying to "talk their way" through this disagreement?  Well, now we can say at least one.

(I am not saying physical contact is the way to resolve arguments, but that's never really been the way in sports when tempers flare, particularly in NASCAR.)


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Group Qualifying For Daytona - Good, Scary or Questionable Decision for TV?

Until I watched the qualifying process for the Xfinity Series race at Daytona, a restrictor-plate track, I wasn't sure what I thought about the group qualifying process that NASCAR instituted for this 2015 racing season.

Now that I've seen it, I can wholeheartedly say that it's bad enough that racing at Daytona is a crap shoot of luck with pack racing combined with poor decisions on anyone's part. That's part of the show IN THE RACE. And there's this need to put on a show during qualifying, because single car runs are not that appealing to the generic TV viewer.

That's the TV studio talking.

But when someone makes a bad call in one of the group sessions that impacts drivers that are fully capable of getting in the race, well, sure, TV gets more of the exciting wrecks that appeal to the casual TV viewer, but seems completely unfair to the drivers who get caught up in the noise of the wreck. I don't know what the right answer is to make qualifying more "exciting" to the casual viewer, but the probability of screwing up a contender from getting in the race seems to be a steep price to pay for any one team.

 Even though I am no expert, it looks like the groups need to be broken up into even more groups for smaller qualifying crowds, minimizing how many cars can be impacted when a driver makes a bad call in the pack. Just saying.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

JEFF GORDON Retires

The 2015 is purported to be Jeff Gordon's last season in NASCAR... or as it was quietly put, his last full-time season. What are the odds he starts his own garage somewhere?

via NASCAR Press Release

“Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today’s announcement is a bittersweet one. I’ll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season.”


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There's a New Track Side Retailer

via press release

NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties Select Fanatics
to Operate At-Track Merchandise Business
New At-Track Shopping Environment to Provide Fans with Convenience and Wide Selection of High-Quality NASCAR-Branded Merchandise

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 21, 2015) – NASCAR, NASCAR Team Properties (NTP) and Fanatics jointly announced today a 10-year agreement for the sport’s at-track merchandise business that will deliver fans an enhanced, experiential shopping environment. As part of the agreement, Fanatics has acquired certain exclusive rights from NASCAR and NTP that will make the company the primary retailer of NASCAR, team and driver merchandise at all 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends.
Fanatics, the market leader for officially licensed sports merchandise, powers the e-stores for hundreds of the top sports leagues, teams and schools, including a long history running NASCAR’s e-commerce business (NASCAR.com). The NASCAR at-track deal expands Fanatics’ growing in-venue partnerships.

The new trackside retail model will be phased in at NASCAR events over the course of 2015. It will evolve from using solely haulers for each specific team or driver to displaying all merchandise in a climate-controlled superstore retail environment supported by, in instances, smaller satellite retail touch points around the track. The new model will have the following enhanced benefits and added options for fans:

·         Ability to offer the largest at-track selection of NASCAR merchandise ever
·         Selection to include a major expansion of women’s and kids’ items
·         A more functional way to browse, shop and interact with merchandise
·         Separate stores within the footprint for teams, drivers, memorabilia and collectibles
·         Dedicated area for driver appearances
·         An interactive customization center where fans can create their own personal NASCAR gear

Fanatics Apparel, the company’s manufacturing and customization division, will also produce merchandise to complement the already extensive product line that will be offered by authorized licensees.
“A merchandise center will provide a more personal, organized, comfortable and convenient shopping environment for our fans,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Partnering with an industry leader in Fanatics allows us to offer a comprehensive and seamless shopping experience for our fans – whether it is in-venue, online or on mobile devices.”

The new trackside retail model will utilize the latest innovations and initiatives in retail promotional design. According to a study conducted by Experian Marketing Services (Simmons National Consumer Survey, Fall Full Year 2013), NASCAR fans are at least 20 percent more likely than non-fans to notice various types of promotions while shopping, including: video monitor displays, signs on merchandise racks or shelves, and advertising on the floor – among others.
“Fanatics is extremely excited to partner with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to greatly expand their at-track retail presence,” said Ross Tannenbaum, president of Fanatics Authentic. “We have taken the time to listen to what the fans, teams, drivers and NASCAR were asking for and look forward to using our market-leading scale, technology and production capabilities to deliver an improved and entertaining shopping experience for years to come.”
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NASCAR Statement on Brian Vickers Participation in 2015 Season

via press release

NASCAR Statement from Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer on Brian Vickers Participation in 2015 Season 

“With the clearance from his physicians, Brian Vickers has satisfied all necessary NASCAR requirements to resume racing on March 5. Further, NASCAR has reviewed the circumstances surrounding his situation and has determined that he will maintain Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility despite neither entering nor attempting to qualify in the first two championship events, provided he meets all other necessary eligibility requirements.”

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Predicting the Winner of the 2014 NASCAR Cup Season

This year is a unique year for NASCAR. Instead of wondering if driver A will finish 15th or better, letting driver B maybe win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship if he finishes 4th or better, and other such convoluted NASCAR algebra, this year, we have a straight up, whoever finishes the highest in the field of the four contenders will be the champion.

That even means if all four get wrecked and finish 39th to 43rd, whom so ever is 39th, will be the champion. Or that the best driver of the four could be eliminated by a bad tire, bad call by another team, or just bad luck.

But who might it be, that will take advantage of this TV ratings induced, newly kludged elimination points system and become the season winner?

Looking at the Homestead driver ratings for Joey Logano, Ryan Neman, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, the money is on Harvick!

Logano  71.2
Newman  84.8
Hamlin  93.4
Harvick 99.1

But I've seen Homestead throw wrenches in statistical performances in the past.

And the latest practice speeds, as I write this, are backing me up, where Harvick posted the faster speeds of the four contenders, followed by Newman, then Hamlin and Logano.

But practice time and race time are two very different beasts and despite the ranking right now, Hamlin has won here before.

If we look at the season's driver ratings for these four drivers,

Newman 86.1
Hamlin 90.7
Logano 106.7
Harvick 109.9

Things look different. But this is a different weekend with all the pressures of an all or nothing race weekend.

I think, pending more practice and qualifying sessions, that this will be between Harvick and Hamlin.  My worries are that Newman might not be quite up to snuff and will pull one of his all or nothing moves by not taking four tires or some such stunt. He tries these a lot and most of the time they don't pan out.

So for lack of any other substantial info, numbers and one practice session say that Kevin Harvick will be the champion come Sunday afternoon.

But too many things can happen in this new and idiotic process that NASCAR has instigated at the behest of the TV networks. So we will see. For now, suffice it to say, the mostly better drivers are at the top of the field and we will have ourselves a first-time champion.

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