Monday, December 17, 2012

Sixth Annual Loopies, More Serious, More Funny!

Is it me, or are the Loopies starting to really catch their wind and picking up some energy?  Because the following press release is a hoot...

via press release...

The Sixth Annual Loopies: Now With Even More Loop

No Championship, No Biggie For Loopie Winners Johnson, Busch


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 17, 2012) – Kyle Busch has frequently called this the worst year of his motorsports career.


We've got news for him: He's wrong. So, so wrong. His tune will change by the time he reads the next 1,271 or so words. There's some hardware in his future. And not just any hardware … Loopie hardware. And not just any Loopie hardware … the granddaddy of them all.


So paraphrasing Ralph Wiggum, who once succinctly said "Me fail English? That's unpossible," we say: "Congratulations Kyle, you've won the Stefan Kretschmann Lifetime Achievement Award. Worst year ever? That's unpossible."


A quick primer for those just tuning in: For the sixth consecutive season, the NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications team has pored over a season's worth of Loop Data and filtered out the top statistical performances of the 2012 season. After a painstaking review, a select committee created awards to recognize those drivers who numerically excelled this season. Those awards have evolved into arguably the most coveted prize in all of NASCAR. They are – and this is – The Loopies.


The envelopes please…


Loop Top Dogg: This award yearly goes to the driver who led the most Loop Data categories. Every week, NASCAR releases a season-to-date Loop Data stats packet that charts 15 different statistical categories. This year's winner of the "Loop Top Dogg" led an astounding 13 of them.


Congratulations, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson's ranked first in the most important of all Loop Data stats, Driver Rating, with a gaudy 109.5. That was eight points higher than second-best Kyle Busch.


In all, Johnson led Average Running Position, Driver Rating, Fastest Early in a Run, Fastest Late in a Run, Fastest Laps Run, Fastest on Restarts, Green Flag Speed, Laps in top 15, Laps Led, Miles Led, Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap, Speed by Quarter (by the way, he also led each quarter overall) and Speed in Traffic.


Quantity of Quality Award: This award goes to the driver who led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Quality Passes, which are passes of cars in the top 15 while under green flag conditions.


The winner, who will have to clear up even more mantle space, is Brad Keselowski. Keselowski, who led the series by more than 200 quality passes, tallied 2,201 quality passes overall.


This is significant. These are the toughest cars – with the most talented drivers – to pass, and Keselowski did it more often than any other driver.


And considering his average starting position of 16.2, he had to do it often. Did You Know: Keselowski is the first champion to fail to win a pole in his championship season since Matt Kenseth in 2003.


Most Improved Driver: Awards like these are usually given after taking into account a number of different success barometers. But this is the Loopies. And our nominating committee needs only one measure: Driver Rating.


The driver with the biggest improvement in Driver Rating from 2011 to 2012, and winner of the coveted Loopie: Greg Biffle. Biffle, who finished fifth in 2012 after missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2011, ballooned his Driver Rating by 13.6 points over last season. Last year, he had an 85.9. This year: 99.5.


In all, six drivers enjoyed a double-digit improvement in Driver Rating from last season: Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.


Least Improved Driver: Not all Loopies are coveted. That's what makes these awards so unique, and dare we say, unrivaled.


Here's one of them. The driver with the biggest drop in Driver Rating wins this Loopie, and it goes to Carl Edwards – with an asterisk. Edwards actually only had the third-biggest drop – 16.8, from 101.0 in 2011 to 84.2 this season. But it was the biggest drop among drivers who didn't switch teams, and therefore the committee made an executive decision to allow Edwards to take home this award.


In actuality, David Ragan suffered the biggest drop in Driver Rating. In 2011, Ragan had a Driver Rating of 78.3 for Roush Fenway Racing. For Front Row Motorsports this season, it dropped to 49.2. Kurt Busch, who went from Penske Racing to Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing, dropped 22.7 points.


Coffee's For Closers Award: Stealing a line from one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, this "Glengarry Glen Ross"-themed award goes to the top "Closer" in the series. The "Closer" statistic measures the positions gained or lost in the last 10 percent of races. The top Closer this season: Ryan Newman, who improved 68 total positions in the last 10 percent of races this season.


"He's Partially Sponsored By An Energy Drink, So Doesn't Need Coffee, Thankfully" Award: (If by now you haven't realized that these awards are all in good fun – and, well, ridiculous – hopefully this award's name has sealed the deal.) This one goes to one of the worst Closers (again, not all of these awards are coveted). And the winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt lost 41 spots in the last 10 percent of races this year, among the worst of any driver. But, with a sponsor like AMP Energy, he doesn't need coffee to keep him caffeinated, anyway. Nor does Kurt and Kyle Busch (Monster Energy) or Clint Bowyer (5-hour Energy), all of whom also were in the red in the Closer category.


Serenity Now Award: A happy driver is a successful driver, and that's certainly true with the winner of this award, Kurt Busch. When Busch announced his move to Furniture Row Racing during the Chase, he exuded calm and joyfulness. The results were immediate.   A tale of the tape breakdown of Busch in his new No. 78 Furniture Row ride compared to his stats in No. 51 Phoenix Racing car:


-          In only 6 races, he had more top 10s in the No. 78 (three) than he did in in 29 races in the 51 (two)

-          Driver Rating: 86.6 vs. 67.8

-          Average start: 17.7 vs. 22.7

-          Average finish: 14.3 vs. 25.0

-          Average Running Position: 14.6 vs. 22.2

-          Pass Differential: +13 vs. 0

-          Laps in the top 15 percentage: 47.8% vs. 21.5%

Stefan Kretschmann Lifetime Achievement Award: It's the moment we've all been waiting for. A brief setup of this one: Stefan Kretschmann works for our partners at Stats, LLC in Chicago, and is considered the godfather of Loop Data. His brain created the formula for Driver Rating, and many of the other formulas that make Loop Data so interesting and invaluable. We started this award last season to honor a driver who has been statistically strong throughout the Loop Data Era (2005-Present). Jimmie Johnson took home the inaugural Lifetime Achievement trophy.


This year's recipient is a man whose talent has landed him an unparalleled 20 perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 throughout NASCAR's three national series. Congratulations to one of the all-time stat kings: Kyle Busch.


Here's a back-of-the-baseball-card view of an amazing career that shows little sign of teetering:


-          Among drivers with a minimum of 50 races, Kyle ranks third in NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver Rating (97.6); first in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (113.8) and first in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (119.3).

-          More perfect driver rating than any other driver.

o    15 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and five in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

-          Best career Average Running Position in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (6.683)

-          Most Fastest Laps Run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (5,031)

-          NASCAR Sprint Cup numbers: 4,328 Fastest Laps Run (third-best); 59,961 Laps in Top 15 (third); Average Running Position of 12.8 (fourth)

-          More top fives in this year's Chase (seven) than any Chase driver. 

-          Cracked the 100-point Driver Rating threshold in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the third time. That's second only to Jimmie Johnson, who did it six times.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tony Eury Jr to Crew Chief the No. 30 Toyota!

In a bit of good news for Dale Jr. family fans, it looks like Tony Eury Jr. lands on his feet and gets a new job.  Check out the good news...

via press release

Swan Racing Hires Tony Eury Jr
Eury to be Crew Chief for No. 30 Toyota
Tony Eury Jr. will be the crew chief for Swan Racing's No. 30 Toyota driven by David Stremme for the 2013 season.  The move comes just days after the new team, owned by Brandon Davis, was formally announced. 
"We have a long-term vision for Swan Racing and the addition of Tony Jr. is another step in that process. Tony brings a world of experience to Swan Racing and will be part of our long-term success," said Davis. 
"I am really impressed with the team Swan Racing is building and I am proud to be part of it," said Eury.  "I am looking forward to working with David Stremme behind the wheel and with competition director Steve Hmiel." 
Eury began his NASCAR career in 1991 when he was hired to work for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.  He has been a part of 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories with Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. including twice winning the Budweiser Shootout in 2003 and 2008.   In 2006, Earnhardt qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and finished 5th in points with Eury making the calls on race day.   Most recently, Eury was Danica Patrick's crew chief/co-owner JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.  The team won the Coors Light Pole in Daytona for the 2012 Drive 4COPD 300. 
"Tony Jr. has pretty much done it all from tire changer to crew chief.  His experience and knowledge will be pivotal to the success of Swan Racing," said competition director Steve Hmiel. 
Driver of the No. 30 Toyota, David Stremme said, "The team has transformed itself virtually overnight. It's hard to believe just how different this team is in such a short period of time.  This is how you build success from the ground up; you hire quality people, put their experience to work and execute on race day.  Lets go racing." 
Swan Racing is located in Mooresville, N.C., and will get its horsepower from Triad Racing Technologies, a top engine builder. 
For more information about Swan Racing go to, become a fan on Facebook at and follow on Twitter at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top Moments

The gang at NASCAR put together a short list of some top moments or events from the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season.  It's a great collective of moments, races and what not.  They touch on Brad Keselowski's performance, Jimmie Johnson's lug nut, Clint Bowyer (no, not the run.).  They also touch on a night race from  Bristol, and Watkin's Glen race.

Check it out, see what you think:

via press release:



2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top Performances

New King Crowned As Keselowski Topples Reign Of Johnson, Stewart


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2012) – No one saw this coming. No one.


Brad Keselowski won his first race in 2009 at Talladega Superspeedway, running a part-time schedule with single-car team Phoenix Racing. It was a nice story in a long season, one that ended with Jimmie Johnson winning the championship.


His second victory came in 2011 at Kansas Speedway while in his second full season with Penske Racing. That win moved him into 21st in points. Again, a feel-good story to weave into the year; one that culminates with Tony Stewart capturing his third title.


Big-picture speaking, Keselowski's yearly career followed a similar story arch. Flashes of brilliance wherever he drove – be it the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series or his thus far brief tenure in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – all followed by a premier series title by two no-doubt-about-it NASCAR legends: Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.


Now it's Keselowski's turn. Keselowski turned in a championship-worthy Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, besting both Chase-participants Johnson and Stewart. His average finish of 6.3 in the Chase was the exact same figure of Stewart's last season. He won twice, including an opening salvo at Chicagoland Speedway that set the rest of the sport on high alert. So, for the first time since 2004, NASCAR has a premier series champion not named Johnson or Stewart. 


From the first primetime Daytona 500 through Keselowski and owner Roger Penske's first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, the 2012 season was filled with drama, intrigue and more than a few "Top Performances." Here are a few of them, and as always, the choices are always up for welcome discussion.


Top Driver

Brad Keselowski: His series-high five wins notwithstanding, Keselowski's clutch playoff performance may live as the most memorable chapter from his first championship. He tallied two wins and eight top-10 finishes in the 10-race Chase. His worst finish was just 15th in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – the exact finish he needed to guarantee the championship. In the last 40 years, Keselowski became only the third driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup title within his first three seasons, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.


Jimmie Johnson (Honorable Mention): A missing lug nut and a rear gear problem in the season finale destroyed any chance of a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship for Johnson, one of the few blemishes in yet another brilliant season. Johnson led the series in Driver Rating with a 109.5 and tied for the series-high in wins (five), including his record-tying fourth victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Comeback Driver of the Year

Clint Bowyer: In 2011, Clint Bowyer eked out one win, at Talladega, and missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season with Richard Childress Racing. Even Bowyer admitted that his move to Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2012 season likely wouldn't lead to immediate success. Wrong. Bowyer won three times this season, leapfrogging Jimmie Johnson in the season finale at Homestead to finish a career-best second in points. Those three wins all came on different layouts – road course (Sonoma), short track (Richmond), and intermediate (Charlotte). Along with teammate Martin Truex Jr., the duo gave MWR its first Chase berth since joining the series fulltime in 2007.


Greg Biffle (Honorable Mention): Greg Biffle, one of the more understated drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, slogged through an uncharacteristic 2011 season. He went winless, with only three top fives and 10 top 10s, missing the Chase en route to a 16th place points finish. This year? Call it a comeback, a big-time one. Biffle won twice, with 12 top fives and 21 top 10s, the latter tying a career-high. Holding the points lead after a series-high 14 races this season, he finished fifth in the final standings, his third top-five points finish and first since 2008.


Top Team

Hendrick Motorsports: Usually this spot is reserved for the championship team, but it's impossible to ignore – and tribute – Hendrick Motorsports' history-making and milestone-achieving season. HMS, with Jimmie Johnson at the wheel, captured its 200th victory in one of NASCAR's crown jewels – the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. It also won the Brickyard 400, also with Johnson. In all, HMS had a series-high 10 victories (Johnson, 5; Jeff Gordon, 2; Kasey Kahne, 2; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 1) and placed all four of its drivers in the Chase.


Penske Racing (Honorable Mention): With Brad Keselowski leading the improbable charge, owner Roger Penske won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in a NASCAR career that began in 1972. The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge won five races, which was tied for the series high with the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson and the No. 11 driven by Denny Hamlin. Penske's other fulltime car – the No. 22 Dodge – chipped in a Coors Light Pole at Kansas Speedway by AJ Allmendinger, along with four top-10 finishes (three by Allmendinger; one by Sam Hornish Jr.)


Top Breakthrough Performance

Brad Keselowski: In 2011, Keselowski made the Chase as one of the two Wild Card contenders. This year, he made it as the fourth seed. There's little reason to believe his meteoric rise to stardom won't continue for years to come. Keselowski's five wins this season came on some of the tougher tracks in the series, including Bristol, Dover and Talladega. But his ability to brush off pressure – and a five-time champion – during the Chase made him a champion, and a breakthrough performer.


Martin Truex Jr. (Honorable Mention): Truex's "breakthrough" was a long time in the making. Since his first Chase appearance in 2007, from 2008-11, his average points finish was just 19.5. This season was a rebirth of sorts for the New Jersey native. He had seven top-10 finishes, which is one short of the last four seasons combined. His 19 top-10 finishes are as many as the last two years combined. And his season-ending Driver Rating of 95.6 ranked 11th – which was also his final points position.


Top Races

IRWIN Tools Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 25) – Bristol's night race evolved into Bristol's Night Race – capitalized – because of the emotional fender-bending, bump-and-running and temper-igniting qualities that blossom under the lights on the high banks. This race had all that, and more. The racing? Intense: Thirteen different drivers led a lap, three short of the all-time Bristol record. The action? Robust: There were 13 cautions, the most in the last 11 Bristol races. Denny Hamlin won the race, but two side acts stole the show. One, of course, is Tony Stewart's helmet toss at Matt Kenseth's No. 17. The other, an undercard to Stewart vs. Kenseth, was Danica Patrick's finger point at Regan Smith after a wreck in her first Bristol race.


Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen, Watkins Glen International (Aug. 12) – Road course races have provided some of the most thrilling NASCAR moments, especially in recent years. This year's Watkins Glen race was no different, especially on an epic last lap that will be remembered for years to come. Three prominent road course talents – Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose – battled for the lead on the last circuit, trading paint, running off course and doing literally anything to capture the checkered. Ambrose finally won the race, and earned it. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Ambrose and Keselowski traded the lead four times on the final lap, a rarity on road courses.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How I Think Brad Keselowski Won The 2012 NASCAR Cup Championship

And so it is written, Brad Keselowski has won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.  But that news is pretty old.  Jimmie Johnson missed that ever elusive sixth title to add to his mantle and last year's contenders, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were no where to be seen.

But some question just how Brad Keselowski actually came from the back of the "expectation pack" in his No. 2 Penske Dodge to take the title?  I have a working theory and it involves that broken ankle of his that I've been known to joke about over the last year or so.


Back in August of 2011, Brad had an "unfortunate" moment and broke his ankle in a road course testing incident.  I remember it vividly and back then I was concerned how that might impact his performance.  HA!  He then went on the win the Pocono race right after, and oddly, started performing rather well the rest of the 2011 season.

My first thought was he's driving differently because of the joint injury and it may pass as soon as it gets better.  But this "driving better" fad did not pass and it got me to thinking.

Bear with me on this.

From my racing simulation days, I had learned an interesting lesson about being "fast," and that was you don't have to drive the fastest to end up being the fastest.  In one race, I had an altercation at Dover and my sheet metal was crumpled up a bit.  This extra aero-drag impacted by straight-away speeds as a car or two or three would pass me every time I turned my wheels straight coming out of four and two.

But this meant I was hitting turns one and three a bit slower than everyone else.  The effect this slower entry speed had was that I outlasted everyone with tires and as a fuel-run ran on, my tires were becoming the superior set of rubbers.  Fortunately, the race had mostly long fuel runs and I managed a win out of this experience in my online league.


Back to the Real World

As a professional bowler, I had always noted that when I bowled injured, I always bowled better.  I quit trying to apply excess energy to my shots while things hurt.  So I had a few data points about lessons to be had from being hurt.

I think when Brad broke his ankle, it impacted him in such a way that he may have had to do something to modify his driving technique.  And whatever he had to do, taught him something of great value.  He not only took note, but probably started applying it from that day forth.  And hence, he not only started to shine at the end of that "ankle" season, but he also showed up in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season having retained that lesson.  And he applied it properly, let Jimmie Johnson out-drive himself, and was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the situation.

And that's how I think Brad Keselowski brought it strong for the 2012 Championship season.  It's only a theory.  But what I do know is that ever since he did break his ankle, he's been a notch better than he's been before.  That, I do know.