Chris Economaki (1920-2012)

Today we lost one of the true giants of the motorsports world, as Chris Economaki passed away at the age of 91.  To be fair, I was a bit too young to have seen and heard him on the tv or radio, but his influence is felt everywhere.  He showed how you could be a responsible journalist while also tirelessly promoting your field (in his case, motorsports).  Influential in all forms of racing, here's hoping that he gets his just due with induction into the media wing of the Nascar Hall of Fame.

Dover "News" and Notes, the Tax-Free Edition

--Note--as I will actually be attending this race (thanks Dad!) there won't be a post-race recap this weekend.  Adjust your schedules accordingly.
--The Red Cross has shown Kurt Busch as a zombie for some reason.
--Speaking of KuBu, he's officially going to the Furniture Row Racing car starting right after Talladega.  Maybe moving to the high-altitude, low-oxygen Rocky Mountains will finally set him straight.  Nah.
--Denny Hamlin is working with a sports psychologist to try and "love Dover", his worst track.  Um, Denny, I moved to Delaware eight years ago and I'm STILL keeping The First State at arm's length.
--Better hurry, Elliott Sadler--only a few more races left to whine about your ride, your teammates, etc.
--Keep in mind that Dover is one of the few tracks that does NOT use an asphalt surface (using concrete instead), joining Bristol (concrete) and Watkins Glen (oil).

Lets Blow it Up and Start Over: Television

In the third part of an ongoing-ongoing series, I take a look at a particular aspect of Nascar (in this case, the TV packages), and give it a makeover from square one.

Trying to "fix" what's "wrong" with Nascar's TV coverage is a little like me going on destined to fail.  But really, what do fans complain about more than Nascar on TV?  Again, we're taking the point-of-view that we could redo EVERYTHING from the ground up, contracts and restrictions be damned.

One of my issues with the current coverage is that the Chase, Nascar's playoff, is basically an afterthought to football (College and Pro).  We always complain that we can't watch NFL & Nascar at the same time, but ESPN can't put races on Saturday Nights--that's football time.  So how about we go to a Network that CAN do it?  Here's my idea:  Fox does the first 13 races (plus the Shootout and All-Star Race), ESPN/ABC does the next 13 races (includes Indy), and TNT does the 10 Chase races.  This would allow MUCH more races to be moved to Saturday Nights or Sunday Late-Afternoons.  With that being said…

Hey TNT--if you want to stay in Nascar, make sure you have, y'know, Nascar announcers.  That means no more Wally Dallenbach Jr., who always seems like he was forced to go to his high-school reunion when he's on-air.  Maybe bump-up one of the B-crew announcers, like Ricky Craven or Jeff Hammond, to pair with Kyle Petty.
Another issue that needs to be addressed--business relationships between announcers and other companies.  Its hard to take Darrell Waltrip seriously when he's extolling the virtues of the Toyota Camry.  So, all three networks should publish a list before the season with every company its broadcasters are involved with.  Look, there's no way to stop former drivers from doing commercials and owning race teams (if they did, there'd be nobody in the booth), but at least we can be informed about it.
As for the announcers themselves, people complain constantly about, well, everybody, but really, other than Wally and the unnecessary pairing of both Waltrips on the same crews, I don't have a problem with 'em.

Hey, remember when Nascar had standard start-times for all its races?  Yeah, it only took about ONE YEAR for that to go away, even though everybody seemed to enjoy it.  I'd like to see them go back to the old system, but if they can't, at least standardize the green flag start-times.  In other words, have races start at 1:19pm, 2:19pm, 7:19pm, etc., for those of us who don't have time for the pre-race.

Simple--keep NBC out of the sport for as long as possible.

There are a surprising amount of people who can't watch races on ESPN, TNT, or Speed because they don't have cable.  So, make it a requirement that if you show the race on a cable station, you have to make it available online.  There's got to be a way to simply put it online with the same commercials you get on TV, or make it available for a very small fee per-race.

…is awesome.  People get to see the commercials AND see the race.  I really find it hard to see the downside to this, since it keeps people from flicking around the channels.  Put Side-by-Side on for the final 1/2 or 1/3 of every race and ratings will go up!

Calling Their Shots

The Babe points out where "That saucy little number with the killer gams" is sitting

In Nascar's long history, more than just Denny Hamlin have "called" or "guaranteed" victories in upcoming races.  Here's a look at the most-memorable:

1948: Jim Roper guarantees that if he wins Nascar's first Strictly-Stock race, he'll be remembered as the winner of Nascar's first Strictly-Stock race.

1953: Jocko Flocko promises a crippled young chimpanzee that, if he'll get out of that veterinarian's office and walk again, he'll win at Hickory.

1962: Junior Johnson teaches a parrot to say "We're gonna win!", believed to be the first-ever Nascar Tweet.

1967: Richard Petty shows up at a racetrack, thus guaranteeing him a victory.

1979: Kyle Petty vows that, after winning his first race of any kind (an ARCA race at Daytona), he will devote more time to what really matters--country music and pro wrestling.

1986: Bill Elliott is asked "Do you think you've got a shot to win today?" by a newspaper reporter.  While his response was printed as "Yes", his ACTUAL response was "Damned if I know".

1990: Dale Earnhardt Sr. privately vows to win the Daytona 500, prophetically adding "…unless some nobody from Washington state beats us."

1995: Jeff Gordon promises not only to win, but to do so in a way that will cause most of Nascar's fans to loathe him for the next dozen years.

2011: Tony Stewart doesn't come through when he guarantees that his team doesn't belong in the Chase.

New Hampshire "News" and Notes

--AJ Allmendinger was reinstated by Nascar for completing its "Road to Recovery".  Why so soon?  I have NO idea.
--Jeff Gordon is running a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles special paint scheme in Charlotte.  Why?  I have NO idea.
--Speaking of special paint schemes, David Ragan will be running a car supporting the Shriners Hospitals for Children.  Here's hoping the car is a tiny replica of his usual Ford with a funny-sounding horn.
--Good news for Robby Gordon--his Stadium SUPER Truck series signed a TV deal with NBC Sports Network.  How will it stack up against IndyCar coverage?  Well, as long as they don't have a "Push to Pass" button, they'll naturally appear much less goofy.
--Remember when New Hampshire was a boring track nobody liked?  Now its exciting--thank you, double-file restarts!

Spade Racing Fall Movie Previews

The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is typically Hollywood's "dumping ground" for disappointing films (you know, like Front Row Motorsports).  Here's the not-so-great movies with some Nascar-themed plots…

Looper--An intrepid Nascar fan tries to watch all five Jimmie Johnson awards ceremony acceptance speeches…and figure out when they are from.

Won't Back Down--Faced with major penalties against his driver and crew chief, Rick Hendrick fights through the appeal process with nothing but money, connections…and moxie.

Pitch Perfect--Watch what happens when we put Kurt Busch's radio chatter through Auto-Tune!

The Waiting Room--After years of wondering, Nascar finally shows you what happens when a driver goes to a medical evaluation after a wreck.

Frankenweenie--A guy named Frank pals around with Kyle Busch.

The Paperboy--Based on the classic video game, try to throw water bottles out of your car that ruin a completely meaningless minor-league race for Kevin Harvick.

The House I Live In--David Stremme reveals the mansion that a long, mediocre career with zero wins can buy.

Butter--Jimmy Spencer reveals how he fit into his car.

Here Comes the Boom--The Brian Scott Story.

War of the Buttons--Can Tony Stewart fit into his tuxedo by the end of the season?

Wreck-It Ralph--The Brian Scott Story, if he was named Ralph.


Due to a lack of cautions in today's race, ESPN's telecast ran short of its expected 5:30pm ending.  Here's how the on-track crew filled the extra time:

5:15pm Interview with Roger Penske in which he has beer poured on him.
5:16 Attempt to interview employee who poured beer on Mr. Penske, see him being thrown into dumpster, told "You didn't see nothin'".
5:17 Show the points again!
5:18 Interview with Bobby Labonte.
5:19-5:21 Commercials, including that weird Peak commercial with Danica in that guy's garage.
5:22 Video package of Chicago: Skyline, Wrigley Field, Hot Dogs, all with generic blues music playing in the background.
5:23 Preview of SportsCenter, showing grown men fussing about makeup.
5:24 Show the points again again!
5:25 Interview with Josh Wise's jackman.
5:26 "Allen, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore".
5:27 Footage of Brad Daughtery dunking in NBA Jam.
5:28 Interview with Matt Kenseth's faulty shock.
5:29 Rusty rhythmically repeats "Hot Rod" into microphone as telecast ends.

Stenhouse Jr.'s Win Fuels Record Sales for Blue Bird School-Buses

After winning today's Nationwide Series race in Joliet, Illinois, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrated both the victory and the points lead.  But it was sponsor Blue Bird Company, a manufacturer of school buses, that appeared to the be real winner.
"I've never seen anything like it", said Blue Bird spokesman Glen Mills.  "We've been getting calls from all corners of the country, all of them wanting to own a Blue Bird school-bus.  I guess its 'Win on Saturday, Sell a Few Minutes Later!'"
Blue Bird reportedly entered Nascar sponsorship to entertain existing customers such as large school districts and transportation companies.  However, it seems that "Nascar Nation" has emerged en force to become Blue Bird's latest clients.
The Blue Bird Paint-Scheme
"How can you NOT want one of those school buses?" said prospective bus-owner Sharon Hill, a data-entry supervisor from St. Augustine, Florida.  "I've been on hold for the past hour, so its given me time to think--should I go for the classic 'Vision' model, or the more modern 'All American' style?  I can't wait to take my brand-new bus to work--they'd better pick up the phone soon!"
Mills, who confirmed that temporary employees would be brought in by Monday morning to handle the added call volume, has said that buses will still be able to be customized to reach the customer's needs, including those cool swinging STOP signs.
"We offer a number of standard features on each bus--a pop-up ventilation duct/emergency exit, those weird windows that you have to press to open, and our classic forest-green vinyl seats", said Mills.  "We can also guarantee that each bus will have one of those gigantic rear-view windows, so that the driver can see a kid getting beat up in the back and do nothing about it."
To respond to the spike in sales, Thomas Built Buses (Blue Bird's biggest competitor) has said that they have entered negotiations to sponsor at least one Sprint Cup Series car next weekend.
"We can't believe we've missed such a great opportunity", Thomas Built marketing executive Chester Holmes said by phone, "but we believe that we can beat our competitors at their own game.  After all, the school bus industry is based around starting and stopping, so we look forward to sponsoring Joe Nemechek next Sunday."

Chicagoland "News" and Notes

--I still think that "Chicagoland" sounds like a Chicago-themed amusement park.  "Come ride the North Side Hipster Simulator!"
--It looks like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will have Best Buy, Zest, and FifthThird Bank coming back to the 17 to sponsor him next year (with increased support).  So if you're keeping track at home, that's two sponsors for Biffle, three sponsors for Stenhouse, and thirty-one sponsors for Edwards.
--Anybody else get the feeling that Clint Bowyer is Ricky Bobby (wins, personality, commercials) while Martin Truex Jr. is Cal Naughton Jr. (never wins)?
--Georgia-Pacific returns to Nascar this weekend as a sponsor of the EGR #1 car.  Good luck, Jamie Mac--you have a long way to go to equal the G-P glory days of Steve Grissom and Buckshot Jones.
--Casey Mears and sponsor Geico have announced that they're returning to the #13 Ford through 2014.  I hear that next week the Gecko will finally be initiated into the dreaded Mears Gang.
--I don't really have a pick for the Chase, but I'll jump on the Tony Stewart Bandwagon IF he does what he did last year--publicly announce that he has no chance.

Chase for the Cup Comes to Delaware

"Can I come to Delaware?"
As the 2,632nd-Most-Powerful Person in Nascar (ahead of Darrell Waltrip's son-in-law, but behind Chad Chaffin's accountant), I'm surprised that the Chase for the Cup media blitz is bypassing Spade Racing.  Well, if they change their mind, here's the questions I'd be asking to each driver:

Denny Hamlin: "I've seen your driver intros at Bristol, and next time, shouldn't you come out to Genesis' "I Can't Dance"?
Jimmie Johnson: "When's the last time you stepped foot inside a Home Depot?"
Tony Stewart: "How relieved are you that you DIDN'T wind up as The Next Robby Gordon?"
Brad Keselowski: "On a per-day average, how many times is your last name spelled wrong?"
Greg Biffle: "Could you do something really crazy, just so that Nicolas Cage can portray you in a movie?"
Clint Bowyer: "Have you ever actually met the guy who plays Tommy in those commercials?"
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "How much time per day do you devote to leaning on a fence, coffee mug in-hand, thinking about life insurance?"
Matt Kenseth: "Is Carl Edwards the kind of guy who constantly talks to himself while working out in the Roush-Fenway fitness center?"
Kevin Harvick: "Can you PLEASE have a talk with the Dillon brothers about those stupid cowboy hats?"
Martin Truex Jr.: "Do you still have any Garden State Parkway tokens?"
Kasey Kahne: "I don't mean to be NURSING this time or MILKing this interview, but have you been keeping aBREAST of Twitter lately?
Jeff Gordon: "So how exactly does paying millions to put their logo on your car help the AARP feed the hungry?"

The Numbers Game

Ever wonder why certain teams/drivers use certain car numbers?  Well, its always been a bit of a pet project of mine to find out why.  Here's a list of Cup regulars and, if I know, why they run the number they do.  A "continuation" means that a number was picked based off of a team's pre-existing number (for instance, 6 led to the 16, 24 led to the 48, etc.)  If I couldn't find out the reason behind a number, I left it blank (feel free to help fill in the blanks on FACEBOOK).
A special thanks to the Pocono Record for THIS informative article.
1 Jamie McMurray--When Dale Earnhardt started this team (as DEI), he swapped numbers with Richard Jackson, supposedly because sponsor Pennzoil was the #1-selling motor oil at the time.
2 Brad Keselowki--?
5 Kasey Kahne--?
9 Marcos Ambrose--Chosen by Ray Evernham when he launched his Dodge team with Bill Elliott--Elliott had driven the #9 during his glory days with Melling Racing.
10 Danica Patrick/David Reutimann--This was Danica's number when she first started racing.
11 Denny Hamlin--Team executive J.D. Gibbs wore this number while on the William & Mary football team.
13 Casey Mears--?
14 Tony Stewart--Picked to honor Tony's hero, A.J. Foyt.
15 Clint Bowyer--Another number courtesy of Dale Earnhardt Sr.  When Dale Sr. started up his third Cup team with DEI, he chose #15 to honor the recently retired Bud Moore (who Dale drove for in the 80's).  Michael Waltrip had his best years in the #15, so he reused it with his own team.
16 Greg Biffle--A "continuation" from Jack Roush's first team, the now-inactive #6.
17 Matt Kenseth--Another "continuation", this time from the #16.
18 Kyle Busch--Supposedly picked by Gibbs' first driver, Dale Jarrett, as it was his number (for another team) in his rookie season.
20 Joey Logano--?
22 Sam Hornish Jr.--A "continuation" from Penske's first team, the #2.
24 Jeff Gordon--A "continuation" from Rick Hendrick's second Cup team, the #25 (itself a "continuation" from Hendrick's first team, the #5).
27 Paul Menard--A "continuation" from RCR's first team, the #29 (formerly the #3).
29 Kevin Harvick--After Dale Earnhardt Sr. died, Richard Childress put Kevin Harvick in the car.  Rather then run the famous black #3, Harvick and Childress decided to run a white #29.  Early on, a small piece of tape was placed between the 2 & 9 ("2.9").
31 Jeff Burton--A "continuation" from RCR's famous #3.
32 Ken Schrader et al--?
33 Stephen Leicht--A "continuation" from RCR's famous #3 (Joe Falk bought the team from Richard Childress).
36 Dave Blaney--?
39 Ryan Newman--This was Ryan's first number when he started racing.
42 Juan Pablo Montoya--When this team was started by Felix Sabates, his first driver was Kyle Petty.  He selected the #42 as a tribute to his grandfather, Lee Petty.
43 Aric Amirola--Team owner Richard Petty drove the #43 for decades, as a "continuation" of his father's #42.
47 Bobby Labonte--?
48 Jimmie Johnson--A unique "continuation", as 48 is 24 doubled.  Jeff Gordon (driver of the #24) co-owns this team with Rick Hendrick.
51 Kurt Busch--?
55 Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip & Brian Vickers--In honor of sponsor Aaron's, which was started in 1955.
56 Martin Truex Jr.--A "continuation" of the #55 car.
78 Regan Smith--?
83 Landon Cassill--The team was started by Red Bull, which sells its product in 8.3 ounce cans.
87 Joe Nemechek--Joe has used this number since his youth.
88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.--When Dale Jr. started in Cup with DEI, he drove the #8 in honor of his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt.  After Dale Jr. left DEI, he simply added another 8 to make it "88".
93 Travis Kvapil--A "continuation" from Red Bull's other car, the #83.
98 Michael McDowell--Mike Curb's Curb Records is an associate sponsor on this car (and a minority owner).  Curb-affiliated cars have frequently run the #98, more often in open-wheel races.
99 Carl Edwards--?

INTERESTING NUMBERS--These numbers aren't run full-time anymore, but still had some great stories to share.
00 David Reutimann--Was run to honor David's father, Buzzie, who got the idea for the number from HIS father (who apparently looked at Buzzie's first car, a jalopy, and derisively said it looked like a zero).
01 US Army--A reference to the Army's slogan at the time, "An Army of One."  The actual #1 was unavailable at the time.
07 Jack Daniels--Jack Daniels whiskey is nicknamed "Old No.7".  The actual #7 was unavailable at the time.
3 Richard Childress--Richard Childress started out as an "Independent" owner/driver (meaning he ran with little or no factory or sponsorship support).  He chose the #3 to honor his hero, Junior Johnson.
7 Robby Gordon--As the last owner/driver without outside investment, Robby chose this number in memory of Alan Kulwicki, the last "true" owner/driver to win a championship.
13 Dan Marino--When Bill Elliott's team expanded to a second full-time ride (originally driven by Jerry Nadeau), Dan Marino was brought on as a part-owner.  Thus, the team used Marino's number with the Miami Dolphins, #13.
42, 43, 44, 45 The Petty Family--Lee (the oldest) drove the #42 (which he supposedly chose from a license plate), Richard (Lee's son) drove the #43, Kyle (Richard's son) drove the #44 after returning to Petty Enterprises, and Adam (Kyle's son) drove the #45.  After Adam's death, Kyle ran the #45 as a tribute to his son.
50 Budweiser--The Hendrick Motorsports #25 was rebranded the #50 (driven by Ricky Craven) for Nascar's 50th season.
66 Phillips 66--When Phillips 66 was a sponsor, they used the #66 on their cars, making them one of the few sponsors to have their company's name on the doors.
83 Lake Speed--When Lake Speed started up his own race team at the Cup level, he chose #83 in honor of the year he became a born-again Christian.

Richmond "News" and Notes

--Ryan Newman re-upped with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2013.  Maybe he's the driver who's going to get the GoDaddy sponsoring.
--If I told you, at the start of this season, that Joey Logano would be the most-sought-after free agent in Nascar, would you believe me?
--Jeremy Mayfield vowing to return to racing is a little like a guy getting thrown out of a bar, then waving his fist saying, "I'll be back!"
--If I read another article about Josh Wise…I'll have read one article.
--If fans really DO want more cautions, they should hope that the rumor of Brian Scott moving up to Cup with Phoenix Racing is true.
--Martin Truex Jr. is the most successful person in Nascar from New Jersey since Ray Evernham (plus you don't get the whole "creepy personal life" thing with Martin).

Carl Edwards--Is it REALLY Bad Luck?

In what seems like a running theme for the 2012 season, Carl Edwards suffered mechanical problems in tonight's ThisRaceShouldBe400Miles 500.  But is it actually "bad luck"?  We went to Carl for the story:

"Well, yes, we have a green car, which is historically seen as a bad omen in Nascar, but I don't think that luck has anything to do with it.  I just had a bad day, is all--it started before the race.  Like when I had my Subway sandwich for lunch, and I knocked the salt shaker off the table.  I mean, what are the odds of it hitting a mirror and cracking it?  Speaking of cracks, I almost tripped when I stepped on a crack in the concrete on a sidewalk here in the infield--almost landed on that black cat that kept darting in front of me.  And then it looked like it was going to rain, so I opened my umbrella indoors and put my shoes up on the table.  But it didn't rain--in fact, when I walked out to my car, the #13 car right in front of me was bone-dry!  I tell ya, sometimes it just isn't your day--but at least I didn't bang my head on that ladder I walked under."

Carl then had to leave, as a bird had just flown into his house.