Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tony Stewart: Nascar Hall of Famer Retirements—Who Hung On Too Long?


Unlike other sports, Nascar can see drivers compete well into their 50’s.  While this allows for some pretty cool stories and added fan memories, it also can lend itself to some drivers staying active well past their prime.
With Jimmie Johnson being just the latest driver to announce his retirement from Nascar (effective the end of the 2020 season), I wanted to take a look at drivers who voluntarily retired from the sport to see if they hung on too long or left at just the right time (or maybe even a little too soon).  By “voluntary retirement” that means I’m not including anyone who was killed or seriously injured while driving.
Instead of looking at EVERY driver (even though interest in an analysis of Paul Menard’s latter years could be quite high) I’m limiting it to Hall of Fame inductees—for now.

(Drivers listed in order of their Hall of Fame induction)

NOTE: Those inducted primarily or exclusively for achievements outside of driving (team ownership, crew chiefing, etc.) will not be considered.  Cup performance is all that’s considered for this piece.  Also, the more modern term “Cup Series” will be used instead of Grand National, Winston Cup, etc.

Tony Stewart

DRIVING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Three-time Nascar Cup champion.  49 Cup Series wins.  Two-time Brickyard 400 winner.

LAST HURRAH: After winning the 2011 Cup championship in dramatic fashion, “Smoke” defended his title in 2012 with a ninth-place finish in points and multiple wins.

FINAL YEAR(S): Stewart’s last four seasons were marred by injuries and legal issues, resulting in two race wins over that period.  However, did show flashes of brilliance, including a seven-race run in his final season of 2016 that saw him post his final race win and four other top-fives in just seven races.  Stewart then retired from Nascar to re-focus his energies on sprint car racing and running his Nascar team.

DID HE HANG ON TOO LONG?: Possibly.  Its impossible to plan for injuries and outside interference, so it remains a mystery how many races Stewart could have won had he remained healthy for his final few years.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Kyle Busch Dealing with Being Only Kyle in Nascar Cup


As the 2020 Nascar Cup season has restarted there has been much focus on the ouster of Kyle Larson and his subsequent replacement by Matt Kenseth. However, less talked about is Kyle Busch’s new status as the only Kyle racing in the series. 
His next license place should be
"ONLYKYLE" or "PURPLE1"
“It’s been a lot of pressure, I’m not gonna lie”, Busch said in an exclusive interview conducted—due to social distancing regulations—over AOL Instant Messenger.  “For years I wasn’t the only one carrying the Kyle name, but now, it’s all on my relatively narrow shoulders.”
Busch has spent the bulk of his Cup career sharing his first name with Larson and, before that, country music singer Kyle Petty. Now, however, he is a singular Kyle amongst the 40-something Cup Series racers. 
“I know Kyle Benjamin and Kyle Weatherman are out there, but until they get a regular Cup ride—and no, not something with Rick Ware—it’s all on me. At least I have my brother (Kurt) taking the pressure off sharing my last name with a watery beer.”
Busch has felt the pressure of handing the Kyle namesake since Nascar returned to the track last weekend. 
“Thinking about all the responsibilities of being the only Kyle—I’m not proud of this, but it creeps up on me”, Busch said. “It caused a momentary lapse of concentration at Darlington and I wound up tapping Chase Elliott.
“At least Chase knew what I was going through, though”, Busch concluded, “he held up one finger to acknowledge my struggle as the only Kyle left.”

Thursday, May 21, 2020

2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 6



Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 6—Glossy, an Aussie, and Lookin’ Cross-y
Other than the entire middle row looking to the right (or their left, I guess) this is a pretty standard pack.  It seems like Paul Menard might be the winner of the “random driver I get a ton of in this box” award this time, while Tyler Reddick’s Optic card again shows the difficultly of photographing high-gloss collectables.  Still, its better than the old school waxy-cards where if you touched them with your fingernail they were ruined forever—ah, memories.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: Chase Elliott gets the “portrait look” here, posing in front of what looks like an old Fiesta Bowl logo.

SECOND LOOK: Bobby Labonte shows two no-no’s here—posing with crossed-arms when your firesuit’s logos aren’t applied properly, and looking royally pissed.  I’m sure Bobby was fine here, however—unless he was tired of dealing with weirdos from Delaware at MBNA.

TO THE BACK: My main man Marcos Ambrose gets some love here for…reasons.  Well, I guess its because they have the rights to produce his cards for a number of years.  Surprised they didn’t list his REAL highlight in Nascar—knocking out Casey Mears.


FINAL SCORE: 3 contingency decals out of 10

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Bobby Labonte: Nascar Hall of Famer Retirements—Who Hung On Too Long?


Unlike other sports, Nascar can see drivers compete well into their 50’s.  While this allows for some pretty cool stories and added fan memories, it also can lend itself to some drivers staying active well past their prime.
With Jimmie Johnson being just the latest driver to announce his retirement from Nascar (effective the end of the 2020 season), I wanted to take a look at drivers who voluntarily retired from the sport to see if they hung on too long or left at just the right time (or maybe even a little too soon).  By “voluntary retirement” that means I’m not including anyone who was killed or seriously injured while driving.
Instead of looking at EVERY driver (even though interest in an analysis of Hut Stricklin’s latter years could be quite high) I’m limiting it to Hall of Fame inductees—for now.

(Drivers listed in order of their Hall of Fame induction)

NOTE: Those inducted primarily or exclusively for achievements outside of driving (team ownership, crew chiefing, etc.) will not be considered.  Cup performance is all that’s considered for this piece.  Also, the more modern term “Cup Series” will be used instead of Grand National, Winston Cup, etc.

Bobby Labonte

DRIVING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 2000 Cup Series champion.  21 Cup Series wins.  2000 Southern 500 winner.  2000 Brickyard 400 winner.

LAST HURRAH: Labonte’s last year with Joe Gibbs Racing (2005) was arguably his last year contending for wins, as despite a 24th-place finish in points he posted a number of top-fives including a heartbreaking last-second runner-up finish at Charlotte.  His declining performance would see him depart for Petty Enterprises for 2006.

FINAL YEAR(S): The move to Petty Enterprises did not revitalize his career as Labonte had hoped, and he would spend the last eleven years of his Cup career driving for middling-to-low-level teams, most notably JTG-Daugherty Racing.

DID HE HANG ON TOO LONG?: Yes.  A model of consistency with JGR, Labonte did little to nothing of note upon leaving the team.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Nascar, The Return: The Drinking Game




A special doubleshot of Lap Zero for Nascar’s real return to real racing!  Here’s a fun drinking game you can play at home or…in a field near your house practicing social distancing.
(Please drink and watch Nascar responsibly)

SIP whenever:
—a phrase ending with “…is back” is uttered by anyone

—the empty stands are shown

—someone at the track is shown adjusting their mask

—Mike Joy references something from iRacing besides Kyle Larson


DRINK whenever:
—Mike Joy references why Kyle Larson is gone

—someone blows an engine

—there’s an on-track incident involving Bubba Wallace and/or Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

—William Byron’s iRacing prowess is mentioned


GULP whenever:
—someone makes a bad 19 car COVID-19 joke about Martin Truex Jr.

—Mike Joy brings up mid-week racing from before 1972

—someone is seen sitting in the stands

—there’s a post-race shouting match that can’t turn physical because of social distancing


FINISH THE BOTTLE/CAN whenever:
—someone tries to take a drink with their mask on (and yes, this counts for YOU too)

—Clint Bowyer takes responsibility for a spin

—a team runs out of something (tires, drinks, etc.) and blames the Coronavirus


—anyone is heard cursing (the “seven dirty words”)

Nascar, The Return: Q&A


Today Nascar is the first of the major North American sports to return to action since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the cars, drivers, and tracks are the same, there’s plenty of changes made for safety’s sake.  You (probably) have questions, and I (in theory) have answers:
What’s this “7 in 11 Gauntlet”?  In order to try and complete as close to a full-schedule as possible, Nascar is cramming seven different races into an eleven day period—four Cup races, two Xfinity races, and one Truck race.
How are they doing it?  For the first time in the modern era, Nascar is scheduling mid-week races in order to maximize the remaining time in 2020.

OK, WHERE are they doing it?  Darlington and Charlotte.

Why there?  Two big reasons—both Carolinas have relaxed restrictions enough to allow for racing, and both are within driving distance of most teams’ headquarters in the Charlotte/Mooresville region.

So can I go?  No.  There’ll be no fans in the stands for these races.

(lame joke about there being so few fans they could all sit six feet apart)?  Yeah, yeah, but the bigger issue is that with fans—even well below capacity, you’d need increased staffing for things like security, maintenance, and concessions.  Nascar doesn’t want to put additional lives in danger, nor do they want to take away from people who could be doing essential work elsewhere.

Racing without fans?  Why are they doing that?  Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob forces all TV off the air, and Krusty decides to go on via the Emergency Broadcast System, saying “Think of the ratings…”.  Yeah, that’s why.

But how will crews practice social distancing?  Long answer—Nascar is limiting road crews to 16 people, work being done will be spaced-out, drivers will avoid contact with other crew members, and everyone working at the track will be subject to regular temperature checks while wearing enhanced personal protective equipment.  Short answer—very carefully.

What’s this I hear about “no practice or qualifying”?  Yep.  No practice will be held for any of these races.  Qualifying will only be held for the upcoming Coke 600—for the rest of the races starting lineups will be determined by a semi-random draw (spots 1-12 selected amongst the top-12 in points, etc.).

What will media coverage be like?  Fox and MRN will have “skeleton crews” at the track with a majority of the production staff working from their permanent studios.  However, since Nascar is quite literally The Only Game in Town, be prepared to have everything explained to you like you’re an eight year old (i.e. “Loose vs. Tight”).

What’s the best outcome for Nascar?  Well, obviously that would be for an exciting, competitive race that can help bring back any new fans the next time they run.  Also, Nascar is walking on eggshells as the first sports organization to return, so no diagnoses of Coronavirus in anyone at the track is a definite goal.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: “7 in 11 Gauntlet” Omnibus of Picks


I’m Back.
Click to Enlarge (courtesy Nascar & NBC)

For Michael Jordan that was enough to signal a triumphant return, but for me, there’s probably some more explanation required.
It’s been crazy, to put it mildly, at work.  I’m deemed “essential” (probably the best compliment I’ve ever received) so that’s meant even more hours than usual at the office…well, store.  Since I’m basically being called in whenever anyone calls out, I can’t predict when my next block of free time will be.  So I’m making my picks for the next two weeks right here, right now.
So there’s the little problem of what to do about “Last Year’s Winners” for the Cup Series.  Well, to keep it going, I’ll be doubling up last year’s winner at Darlington.  For Charlotte, I’ll use last year’s 600 winner for the 600 and the 500k race (since I’m assuming they’ll be back at Charlotte again later this year for the Roval race.

Current stats:
CUP SERIES Last Year’s Winners (2 WINS), No wins for me (grrr)
XFINITY SERIES (2 WINS)
TRUCK SERIES (1 WIN)

And now, finally, the return to picks!

May 17 (Sunday): Cup (400 miles) Darlington.  3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER: Erik Jones  FAVORITE: Kevin Harvick—Happy is able to adapt and overcome.  NEXT FAVORITE: Kyle Busch—or things keep rolling along as per usual.  DARK HORSE: Matt DiBenedetto—a feel-good win everyone will automatically say was rigged.

May 19 (Tuesday): Xfinity (200 miles) Darlington.  8 p.m. ET on FS1: Austin Cindric—a Penske sweep would show that The Captain really IS always going to find a way to win.

May 20 (Wednesday): Cup (500 kilometers) Darlington.  7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (well, sorta): Erik Jones  FAVORITE: Martin Truex Jr.—JGR is likely to remain an unstoppable force.  NEXT FAVORITE: Denny Hamlin—second-most impressive FedEx run lately (all FedEx delivery drivers tied for first).  DARK HORSE: Kurt Busch—would be a nice break from controversy at Ganassi.  

May 24 (Sunday): Cup (600 miles) Charlotte. 6 p.m. ET on FOX.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.  FAVORITE: Kyle Busch—Candyman keeps it comin’.  NEXT FAVORITE: Chase Elliott—another popular win that people would claim was fixed.  DARK HORSE: Christopher Bell—JGR-adjacent but still a true underdog.  

May 25 (Monday): Xfinity (300 miles) Charlotte.  7:30 p.m. ET on FS1: Ross Chastain—a nice return to the Xfinity Series if he can pull it off.

May 26 (Tuesday): Trucks (200 miles) Charlotte.  8 p.m. ET on FS1: Matt Crafton—when in doubt, pick ol’ reliable.

May 27 (Wednesday): Cup (500 kilometers) Charlotte.  8 p.m. ET on FS1.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (kinda sorta): Martin Truex Jr.  FAVORITE: Denny Hamlin—Toyotas stay tough.  NEXT FAVORITE: Joey Logano—a bad stretch for BradK raises rumors that he might have a foot out the door.  DARK HORSE: Alex Bowman—as refreshing as a splash of water to the face.