Martinsville “News” and Notes

—After a highly-controversial finish to last week’s race, the Chase rolls on with all eyes on possible payback at Nascar’s smallest track.  Unless it rains.

—A piece of the 2015 Silly Season puzzle fell into place the other day, as Justin Allgaier was signed to drive the JRM Xfinity #7 car next year and beyond.  With Allgaier taking Brandt with him, it makes me wonder why Harry Scott is giving up a stable sponsor and an inexpensive driver for one season at the big time?  Oh, right, he can sell his “charter”.

—Speaking of 2016, Nascar released their 2016 schedules for the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series this week, with no major changes and locked-in races for five years.  It should be noted that the “locked-in” refers to these tracks getting guarantees on hosting these races, not the actual dates themselves.  After all, there’s always at least a schedule adjustment for Easter, and the occasionally moving of Atlanta to a worse weekend.

—Surprisingly there’s no Cup drivers entered in tomorrow’s Truck Series race besides David Gilliland.  Here’s hoping Kyle Busch has hired someone to block him from instinctively getting into the truck Saturday afternoon.

A Commercial I’d Like to See

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We installed a faulty hatch on the hood of Denny Hamlin’s race car then tried to bind it with tape—within a single lap the hatch was blown open again.  But with PlexSeal, the hatch stayed down till the end of the race.
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Talladega Fans Tell Logano, Nascar They’re Number One

A confusing end to a bizarre race left Nascar’s most-popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., lose the race—and his chance to advance in the Chase—on what was essentially a judgement call.  Fans didn’t seem to mind, however, quickly showing Logano and the Nascar officials what they felt about them, with a single finger raised in appreciation.
"That's right kids, he's number one"
“It was great to see all those fans telling me I was number one”, Logano said upon exiting his car in Victory Lane.  “To be able to sweep the whole round in the Chase, man, it feels like we picked up tens of thousands of fans today.”
Nascar had instituted a new rule earlier this week limiting the race to a single Green-White-Checker finish.  After a strange “false-start” restart on the first attempt, the second attempt at the only restart attempt saw another wreck happen shortly after going green.  Nascar then waited until an apparently arbitrary moment to throw the yellow flag.
“Nascar definitely made the right call there, and the fans obviously knew it”, Logano told reporters.  “Heck—they were even throwing me some beers to try and celebrate early before we got to Victory Lane!”
Logano thanked the crowd before leaving for further interviews in the media center.

“Thank you everybody for telling me I’m number one, it’s really flattering.  Just like all those Kenseth fans who told me last week that I was number one—thank you!”

Talladega “News” and Notes

—Here’s how to play “Talladega Roulette”: Go to your local casino and find the roulette wheel.  Whatever number it lands on, the driver corresponding to that spot in the points is your pick to win the race (so if the ball lands on 5, the driver in fifth place in points would win).  0 means it’s someone outside the top-36, and 00 means it’s a part-timer.  Oh, and if you win anything, I’m entitled to half.

—Justin Allgaier is rumored to go to JR Motorsports next year.  Is he bringing Brandt?  If not, it doesn’t make much sense from JRM’s standpoint, but if he is, then it REALLY doesn’t make any sense from Harry Scott’s standpoint…oh, unless he’s planning to sell his “charter” for big bucks.

—Last week’s last laps battle was thrilling, but remember: Yellow Car on Yellow Car violence MUST END.

—Monster will be splitting the 2016 season with Haas CNC on Kurt Busch’s Cup car.  It has yet to be announced who will sponsor Kyle Busch in Xfinity next year, but here’s hoping it’s “Nobody”.  Please.  I’m begging you.

—Some people might object to Michael Waltrip stepping back into the car for a few plate races each year, but hey—any chance to keep him out of the booth is good by me.  That’s why I’d like to see him race the first half-or-so of the Cup schedule every year.

Nascar Cancels Truck Race Due to Lack of Cup Drivers

Nascar chose not to gamble on
the number of ARCA fans Bobby
Gerhart would attract to the race
In a late-breaking announcement straight from Nascar headquarters in Daytona Beach, Nascar chairman Brian France has cancelled the upcoming Fred’s 250 Camping World Truck Series race due to a lack of Sprint Cup drives entered in the race.
“We cannot have an event like this without any top-name Cup drivers”, France said at an impromptu press conference.  “We were talking to Kyle Busch about possibly entering another truck, or maybe Austin Dillon running for GMS Racing, but none of those deals is going to happen.  So with no Cup drivers, nobody will be watching, and if nobody is watching, why have a race in the first place.”
France apologized to the Truck teams that had spent weeks preparing for one of the series’ marquee events.
“We were under the impression that we’d have a former Cup champion racing, but when we realized it was BRIAN Keselowski, we had to pull the plug.  Obviously we’re sorry to all the full-time Truck Series teams, but hey—you should’ve hired a Cup driver to run a part time schedule.

“And no, Timmy Hill doesn’t count”, France added before any questions could be asked.

No Post Race for Kansas

...I was in New York visiting family, so I missed this one.

Kansas “News” and Notes—Special Jumbo Edition

—In other sports (especially football) when you’re looking past an average opponent to a big-time matchup the following week, the earlier game is called a “trap game”.  Well, Kansas is a “trap race” if there ever was one.
I also think this is the first time the phrase
"Skin and Bones" has ever been associated
with Mike Harmon.
—It’s strange to see Jennifer Jo Cobb running an Xfinity race just a few days after getting married, but it’s even stranger to see the prime #88 ride going to someone as obscure as this “Kevin Harvicke” guy Jayski is talking about.
—After two weeks with hideous plaid paint schemes, Kyle Larson will run a red-and-white pinstriped scheme on Sunday, making his car look like a giant candy-cane.  Well, it’s a step-up.
—Sonic will be on the hood this weekend for Sam Hornish Jr.  Here’s hoping we get a commercial with Sam where he kills off those two annoying guys in the car.
Never forget
—Johnny Sauter is moving to GMS Racing—they of Allegiant Air—in 2016 with the dreaded “sponsorship to be announced” tag.  No word yet on why he left ThorSport Racing, although he might have been feeling jealous of Matt Crafton’s 22 different sponsors on the hood each year.
—Speaking of aviation, US Airways finally folds tonight after over 70 years of service.  See, you stop sponsoring Greg Sacks, and THIS is what happens, people.

—With Kansas adding restart lines for this weekend’s races, it’s good to see that it wasn’t just Charlotte doing it.  And by “Charlotte doing it”, I of course mean “Bruton Smith doing it to piss off Nascar”.

Two Lowe’s Sponsored Cars Cause Confusion in Post-Race Interviews

For the first time in recent memory, two different cars had two different sponsors with almost identical names—the 48 car with Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers, and the 9 car with Lowe’s Food Stores.  This caused more than a little mayhem for the media in post-race interviews.
“Well, uh, we haven’t really been that good all year, so it didn’t really change much”, Sam Hornish Jr. said when asked how being out of the Chase affected his performance this year.  “And I care about the workers at Lowe’s, but why are so many PR flaks asking me about them?”
“Look, we JUST re-upped our contract, I’m not going anywhere next year”, Jimmie Johnson angrily responded to questions about if he’d lose his ride after the 2015 season.  “Our sponsorship is rock-solid, our team isn’t sinking, we’re good to go, so leave us alone!”
The confusion stems from the better-known Lowe’s (the hardware chain) being started by the father of the supermarket’s founder.  Customers seem to have avoided any confusion, though the media appeared to have problems telling the two apart.

“What do you mean ‘go BACK to IndyCar’?” Johnson was heard saying.  “Well, at least you’re not asking me about football again.”

Why’d They Postpone This Race So Quickly? Because of the XFL

Tonight’s race has been postponed to tomorrow (green flag around 12:30pm EST on NBCSN) due to rain. While having a race postponed due to weather isn’t that odd (especially THIS season), having one postponed so quickly IS rather out-of-the-ordinary.  Think about it—how many times have you seen it pouring rain behind a pit reporter interviewing some obscure driver but they still haven’t officially postponed anything?
An XFL game at Solider Field--and you
thought Nascar had bad attendance

The answer involves Jennifer Lopez, a failed football league, and the halcyon days of 2001.

In 2001, wrestling impresario Vince McMahon was flush with cash from the late-90’s wrestling boom.  With his closest competitor WCW a very distant second in the ratings, McMahon had his sights set on another all-American tv tradition: football.  First, he was approached about buying the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.  McMahon countered with a proposal to buy the entire CFL.  When the CFL brass turned this down out-of-hand, McMahon decided to start his OWN football league.  He quickly found interested partners—NBC was still smarting from the loss of NFL coverage in 1998, and was willing to gamble with pro football in primetime on Saturday nights.
The league started off with decent ratings in week one.  However, when fans saw the sloppy and dull on-field product, those ratings began to tank, to the disappointment of McMahon and the anger of NBC.
Week two’s ratings were less than half that of week one’s.  Those who DID tune in got to see a barn-burner of a game, as the Los Angeles Xtreme outlasted the visiting Chicago Enforcers in double-overtime.  You’d think that NBC would be happy about having such an exciting nail biter of a game as a followup.
Nope, they were furious.
JLo, before the world got
sick of her
Well, more specifically, Lorne Michaels was furious.  Lorne was and is the creator and executive producer of NBC’s venerable Saturday Night Live tv show (as well as many other programs, most of which air on NBC).  That night SNL had the red-hot (in terms of popularity, that is) Jennifer Lopez as host and musical guest.  When people tuned-in to their local NBC affiliate at 11:30pm to see one of the most-popular entertainers at the time hosting one of the most-popular tv shows of all-time, instead they got a seemingly never-ending football game between two teams most had never heard of.  And its worth noting that even if you WERE watching from the beginning, you missed a chunk of the game due to a transformer failing at the LA Coliseum.
Shortly afterwards rules were adjusted for the rapidly declining league to ensure that games would end by 11:30pm.  Not that it mattered much, since the XFL went belly-up once NBC cut their losses mere days after the first—and only—championship.

Now it’s 2015.  The XFL is long gone, NBC has the NFL again (on Sunday nights), and has since gained, lost, and gained again coverage of Nascar.  If this was a Sunday afternoon race, or a Saturday night race on Fox, I’m sure we’d see the broadcast crew desperately stalling for time.  But because this is one of the few races airing on Saturday night on NBC, the plug was pulled before the scheduled green flag.

And all because of a controversy 14 years ago.

Charlotte “News” and Notes

—Jimmie Johnson being eliminated from the Chase in the first round should, in theory, be enough to convince “fans” that the sport isn’t rigged in his favor.  Y’know, in addition to the sport losing popularity during his run on top, the many fines and penalties levied towards the 48 team, the relative ease of keeping a single committed sponsor happy, and the simple fact that if the sport WERE rigged in his favor, he’d have eight championships by now.

—With that being said, I figured that Jimmie Johnson being eliminated would be the most-surprising thing to happen all week.  Then I saw Ryan Blaney attempt a Cup race…and it DIDN’T RAIN.

—Kudos to Shannon Koch (wife of Blake) on winning the annual “Better Half Dash” race, although to be fair, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t enter.

—Some more troubling news on the sponsorship front, with ABIn-Bev scaling back its sponsorship of Kevin Harvick to just 12 races in 2016.  Furthermore, they are moving from their flagship Budweiser brand to their less-popular Busch brand of canned water.

My Trip to Dover

This past Saturday I was at Dover International Speedway as a guest/sponsor of Derrike Cope Racing.  Here’s some pics!

Kasey Kahne's (still) throwback
scheme in the garage

15 Reasons Why Bubba Wallace is Racing This Car
Danica's car in the pits, going pink
for Breast Cancer Awareness
Pretty cool pit-board for Ryan Reed, in
the style of his "bullseye" patch on
his firesuit where he is to be
injected with insulin
Matt Kenseth in the garage
Cale Conley's car, post-wreck
Pretty weird to see Jeff Gordon's car,
knowing it's the last time it'll
be in Dover with him in it

Stanton Barrett's car, pre-wreck


Fun fact: Nathan's has a qualifying event
for their 4th of July Eating Contest
at Dover the morning of the fall race

Pretty cool "vent cover" on
Dakoda Armstrong's car

The biggest tangible issue the 54 team
had that day--his pit board pole
was bending over

Joey Gase's car, unharmed from his hauler's fire

The 70 car going through inspection

On the track!

In the pits (I was up on the "war wagon")

The legendary Timmy Hill

Dale Jr's car being worked-on in the garage

Rico Abreu getting ready for the K&N East Series race

A perma-tribute car in the K&N race

Paint on the back of Morgan Shepherd's car

Air Force pilots crossing the crossover bridge

Denny Hamlin testing the seat in his Xfinity car

Denny & Rico

"Look Smithers--Garbo is coming!"

Glenn Jarrett

HiSense (sponsor of the race) had a huge
contingent there, almost all of them from
China.  Morgan Shepherd let a few of
the ladies in the group sit in his car.

Kelli Stavast and Ty Dillon

Random guy with a REALLY random diecast car

Chase Elliott leaving the drivers' meeting

Eric McClure in the drivers' meeting, just days
after being released from the hospital

Daniel Suarez & Chris Buescher leaving the drivers' meeting

Mike Harmon

Mike Massaro

The wall

Parade laps, part 1

The ageless Morgan Shepherd clowning
around on his bicycle

Parade laps, part 2

My logo!

Where a chunk of seats have been removed

My logo! (Post-Race)

The 70 car post-race
Miles watches over the start-finish line

Victory Lane set up for the K&N East Series race

A wall post-scrape

The 88 Xfinity car wrecking in front of me

Stanton Barrett's car gets chopped-up