Talladega “News” and Notes

—Well I’m back after another trip to the heart of Nascar country, North Carolina.  I come back with some good information, a bad cold, and some great pictures—look for them (and my pics from the Richmond Cup Race!) later next week.

—It’s a decent weekend of racing on-tap from The Track Too Tough to F#@& With* with Cup, Xfinity, and ARCA action on track today, tomorrow, and Sunday.  Unless it rains.

—Talladega also means a shot for an underdog, underfunded team to run up front and maybe even win, so don’t be surprised to see a newcomer up front like BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports, or RoushFenway Racing.

—There’s a bit of controversy over Tony Stewart vacating his ride on Sunday at the first caution for Ty Dillon—namely that if Dillon drove the car to victory, Stewart would not only get credit for the win, but he’d qualify for the Chase (as long as he finishes top-30 in points, that is).  But come on—that’s been the rule for years: You start a race, you get the points for that race.  Don’t let something stupid like the Chase muddle a sensible rule.

—David Starr has been released from TriStar Motorsports (the 44 car), replaced by JJ Yeley.  No idea of the real reason behind this, but something tells me we’ll get at least one lawsuit out of it.

*—according to Ed Hinton, this was the slogan Talladega’s PR team half-jokingly proposed for themselves after Darlington trademarked “The Track Too Tough to Tame”.

Richmond “News” and Notes—Super Maxi Jumbo Edition

—After weeks of waiting, he’s finally returning this weekend at Richmond—that’s right, ME!  I’ll be in the pits pre-race for the Sunday Cup race at Richmond International Speedway, so just look for the schmuck in the “Spade Racing” t-shirt.
"Look Clint, if you're gonna race for me,
you've got to start wearing gaudier shirts."

—Oh, and some IRL guy is coming back too.

—Due to being at the race (and touring the race shops of North Carolina for my OTHER website afterwards) there will almost certainly be no post-race “Burnout” article this weekend.

—For the first time since Daytona there will be more than 40 cars attempting the Cup race.  What should we call this?  I mean, 36 charter teams is a “full field”, so what would 40+ be?  Overstuffed?

—Kevin Harvick makes Nascar history this Sunday, running the first car sponsored by a canned-water brand, Busch Light.

--A happy Passover to all my fellow Jews in Nascar (all five of us).  For those who don’t know, Passover is what happens when sponsors see Xfinity regulars.

—If you caught the IndyCar race on Sunday (post-Nascar, of course), then you saw a controversial non-call on pit-exit procedure, taking the average IndyCar fan to “furious rage” from their normal “angry rage”.  Still, it was nice to see them talk about something other than The Split.

—But seriously, it’s great to have Tony Stewart coming back this weekend from his injuries.  It sounds like Brian Vickers will be on standby as a relief driver, while Ty Dillon will be on standby as a relief gigantic face.

Comcast Car to Arrive in Victory Lane Between 5-7pm

After a dominant day at Bristol Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards captured the checkered flag at the Food City 500.  However, his sponsor, Comcast, says that he will arrive in victory lane between 5-7pm.
“Thank you for contacting Comcast”, a spokesman said.  “For quality assurance, this press conference may be recorded.  If you’d like to interview our driver, please press or say 1 now.”
Members of the media waited impatiently, wondering how it could take a car more than a few minutes to report to something inside the track.

“We appreciate your business, and please continue to hold for your race winner”, the spokesman continued.  “Please note that if the winner does not report to victory lane in the allotted time window, you will receive a credit to your account worth about 5% what you spend with us in a month.”

Peyton Manning Ruins Everything

Much like in the majority of his football career, Peyton Manning’s visit to Bristol Motor Speedway resulted in his ruining everything, from an errant throw to a bad start by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I was shocked to see Peyton Manning drop the football I handed him”, said broadcaster and former driver Michael Waltrip.  “I mean, it’s the easiest thing in the world, just holding a football, and he couldn’t do it.  I guess all those things they say about him being a choker are true?”
Upon recovering from his pit road gaffe, Dale Earnhardt Jr.—of whom Manning was his official guest—strangely was unable to get his car going at the green flag, causing stack-up damage behind him in the field.
“Dammit, I knew I shouldn’t have let him touch my car!” Earnhardt Jr. was overheard saying shortly after the race started and his car did not.  “I tried to send him over to Danica (Patrick) but he was afraid she’d have a vulgar mouth—that big-headed schmuck ruined our race!”
Dale Jr. was not the only driver angered by Peyton’s apparently contagious poor performance.
“It’s another of those damn legacy kids!”, and enraged Aric Almirola shouted over his radio after being stacked-up behind Earnhardt Jr.’s 88 car.  “No, not Junior, I meant Manning—his daddy was a quarterback too, you know.  And I’m NOT throwing another driver under the bus…well, again.”
Despite a pair of Super Bowl wins, Manning has frequently been criticized for a perceived tendency to “choke” in clutch situations.
“It’s that idiot Manning again!”, said Dale Jr. fan Jerry Alexander.  “This is just like when he couldn’t beat Florida at Tennessee.  Heck, let’s get Tee Martin out there—Junior will lap the field!”

Manning was unavailable for comment, but it is expected that he’ll put all the blame on Jim Mora again in a later radio interview.

Bristol “News” and Notes

"Huh huh huh--you said Goodwood"
—Tomorrow the Xfinity Series unveils its new Heat Race format, which will feature two 50 lap “features” followed by a 200 lap “main”.  If an Xfinity points-eligible driver finishes top-two in either Heat Race, they’ll be eligible for the “Dash 4 Cash” in the Main (by finishing best of those four drivers), and if a driver wins two of the four Dash 4 Cash bonuses, they’ll automatically advance to the Chase.  Basically, it’s a really confusing way to draw attention away from the fact that Kyle Busch uses this series to stroke his own ego.

—Speaking of Kyle Busch, Rowdy has said that he would be interested in running an IndyCar at Indianapolis in the future—guessing he means the IndyLights support race they run there every year now.

—On Sunday, meanwhile, Bill Goldberg will return to Bristol to do driver introductions.  Soon afterwards, Goldberg will travel to England with Mike Skinner for the Goodwood Festival of Speed.  I’m not making ANY of that up.

—The NBA is going the Nascar route by selling a small portion of jersey space to advertisers.  Let’s see how NBA team owners like it when they get stiffed on sponsorship payments from Big Daddy’s BBQ Sauce!

Fixing the Xfinity Series

Lately there’s been a lot of talk/complaining about the state of the Nascar Xfinity Series.  Here’s some ideas on how to fix it:

Bigger purses to make teams less dependent on sponsorship
Allow a greater “gray area” for templates
New standalone events

Keep pushing younger stars
Yank underperforming teams from the field after three straight DNFs
Let drivers under 18 compete on tracks shorter than 1 mile
Explore going back to V-6 engines

Build up it’s own identity as more than just ‘Cup Lite’
Use more interactive platforms during races (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Save teams money by instituting a “halftime” break for non-timed pit stops
Create more excitement by having a “streak bonus” for consecutive wins

Help independent teams compete against Cup-affiliated cars

Let’s Blow It Up and Start Over: Rain Delays

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when races start at an ungodly late hour—just like last night.  I realize that not everybody lives on the East Coast, but guess what—a large portion of the fanbase DOES.  Since Nascar (as is their right) wants to run a number of races on Saturday Nights, here’s MY suggestions for rain delay procedures in the Cup Series:

—EXCEPT FOR THE SOUTHERN 500, MAKE ALL NIGHT RACES 400 MILES OR LESS.  This is probably a good idea overall for all but the “Classic Three” (Daytona 500, World 600, Southern 500), but especially comes into play with night races.  There was NO REASON why last night’s race had to be 500 miles long—we’re far past the point of 400 miles being a “short race”, in fact, 400 might be a bit long as well.  Speaking of which…

—IF A RACE IS DELAYED MORE THAN 60 MINUTES, DECREASE THE LENGTH BY 100 MILES.  I for one wouldn’t have as big of a problem staying up late if I knew the race would likely end at a reasonable hour.  So if we’re stuck doing pre-race interviews when we should be going green, and the delay goes over an hour, lower the distance of the race by 100 miles, making it a 300-miler (see first suggestion why).  If the race gets postponed until the next day, the distance stays the same.

—ALL RACES MUST HAVE A SCHEDULED GREEN FLAG OF 7PM EST OR EARLIER.  The majority of non-hardcore fans tune in and out to races, so there’s not much to be lost by having things start before traditional prime-time.

Is there any chance of these rules being adopted?  Probably not.

Rain Delay Hijinks

Of course Nascar gets a weather delay when they get prime network time.  Here’s what some of Nascar’s stars are doing to pass the time:

Kyle Busch—Refusing to do interviews unless they mention what a great guy he is for giving a fan an autograph while his wife’s camera phone was recording it.

Austin Dillon—Dealing with the irony of forgetting his cowboy hat on a rainy day in Texas.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.—Coating his body with mayonnaise.

Jamie McMurray—Patiently waiting for Matt Yocum to interview him.

Carl Edwards—50 crunches, 50 pushups.

Matt Kenseth—Trying to stick voodoo pins into M&Ms.

Kevin Harvick—Perfecting smirk in response to “Where will you be racing in 2018?” questions.

Texas “News” and Notes

—Hearing that Texas Motor Speedway is 20 years old makes me think of two things: 1.) I’m getting old, and 2.) That wreck in turn one of the first lap at the first race showed just how crazy Bruton Smith is.

—Clint Bowyer says that he’s working with HScott Motorsports to improve their performance.  Here’s guessing that unless they magically transform their cars into Fords, they’re unlikely to improve much of anything.

—If you remember the early-00’s, you might actually remember how Kevin Harvick got the nickname “Happy”—because of his ability to smile through seemingly any controversy.  The way he’s saying he’s not going to Ford, but not out-and-out guaranteeing it, we might see a return of that smirk as a non-verbal answer to a few media questions.

—Coming soon: Peyton Manning, Bristol pre-race interview subject/Nationwide spokesman.  I’ll admit it—if Mikey’s grid walk features the quote, “Hey Peyton…woah, don’t slide forward on me!”, I might actually like him for a minute.

30 for 30 Shorts: Petty Blue World Order

In honor of the recent Wrestlemania show (tagline: “WWE: The Only Place With Whinier Fans Than IndyCar), let’s take a look back with ESPN’s acclaimed/self-important “30 for 30 Shorts” series at one of the most-memorable crossovers in racing and rasslin’ history.
The Bahari Racing Story

(Voiceovers as wrestling programs interspersed with Nascar programs float across the screen)—Hulk Hogan: “I got the man, I got Kyle” … Kyle Petty: “I didn’t know WCW even HAD a car!” … Scott Hall: “Big Kev tuned it himself”…

Title Screen: PETTY BLUE WORLD ORDER, a 30 for 30 short

Failing to promote Kyle's appearance
is the REAL reason why WCW is dead
Mike Mackler, Webmaster—Spade Racing, Racing & Rasslin’ Historian, Single: “Kyle Petty was no stranger to wrestling—in fact, he made a brief appearance at a JCP show in the early-80’s as a special guest judge.  But that was before Kyle Petty really became KYLE PETTY."

Mackler: “At that time, WCW had supplanted the then-WWF as the #1 wrestling show in the country, they had the stars, they had the media coverage, but more than anything, they had the nWo.”

George Newman, Personal Assistant to Eric Bischoff: “The nWo was this ‘invading faction’ of wrestlers who used to work for the then-WWF, and people were tuning in every week just to see what they’d do next—I mean, they’d take over whole tv shows, they’d gang-attack other wrestlers, but nobody—NOBODY—expected them to enter the world of Nascar.”

Louis: “The idea of a Nascar driver siding with a group of…well, BAD GUYS, it was unheard-of back then.  But still, if it was going to be any driver doing this, you just knew it was gonna be Kyle.”

Newman: “They announced that Kyle Petty was gonna be the driver of the nWo Racing car in the Nascar Busch Series…the reaction of the crowd that night was pretty electric when they revved that engine up in front of all those fans.”

Hulk Hogan, Actor—“Santa with Muscles”: “Then a few weeks later we brought Kyle onto the show, and he fit right in.”

Hulk Hogan (file footage): “My son, Nasty Nick, loves fast cars”
NOT PICTURED: M. Wallstreet

Hogan: “In retrospect I wish I hadn’t said that, brother.”

Mackler: “You have to remember that back then, people didn’t really know about the inner-workings of Nascar, mostly because they didn’t really care.  So yeah, there was a WCW car, and yeah, there was an nWo car, but they were the same company—Dan Shaver Racing.  And nobody was the wiser.”

Newman: “When you go back and watch that promo, Kyle fit like a glove with that group.  And he hung out there for the rest of the night…mostly because The Giant was blocking his way out.”

Louis: “It was some pretty heady days, but then…”

Hogan: “We really felt like Kyle was a guy we could depend on, but then, brother…”

Newman: “The story goes that the Steiner Brothers, Rick and Scott, went up to Kyle on pit road before a race.”

Scott Steiner, Psychopath: “Yeah, we went up to that son of a (CENSORED)”

Mackler: “And Kyle just ran off—to this day, Kyle refuses to talk about it.”

Louis: “I tried approaching the subject in my interviews with Kyle, and he kept changing the subject to how he put the Hot Wheels deal together—it’s still a sore subject with him.”

Mackler: “So then the Steiners pull off the wrap on the car—I mean, most fans still thought that most cars were painted!”

Steiner: “We tore the wrap off the car in eight and two thirds seconds, and that long haired (CENSORED) ran off lickety-split, (rest of interview CENSORED)”

Mackler: “And they ran the WCW car that day with Steve Grissom.  Now, obviously, Kyle had run away, but Steve Grissom?”

Newman: “So the real reason why Steve Grissom was our driver is that he showed up at the CNN Center (headquarters of WCW) one day and Eric (Bischoff) just gave him a contract.  I mean, it was that easy back then—just look at our roster at the time!  You think Roadblock earned his spot?”

Louis: “After that, the whole nWo thing kinda fell apart for Kyle.”

Hogan: “Kyle couldn’t run with the pack, brother, so we went our separate ways.”

Mackler: “Next thing you know, Kyle’s running his own team with Hot Wheels as a sponsor, back to being Mr. Nice Guy.”

Louis: “He might act like it was just a random sponsorship promotion, but I think it’s affected Kyle to this day.”

(on-screen graphic: Kyle Petty raced for over a decade before his affiliation with the nWo, winning 8 races.  Kyle Petty raced over a decade after his affiliation with the nWo, winning 0 races.  Kyle Petty declined to be interviewed for this piece.)

AJ Allmendinger Succeeds Keeping Kyle Busch out of Victory Lane

AJ Allmendinger had a banner day at Martinsville today, coming home second place for an all-time best finish on an oval.  Furthermore, according to “Dinger” himself, he succeeded keeping Kyle Busch out of victory lane.
His hood said "CAR" that week
“We might not have finished first, but we kept the 18 out of victory lane”, Allmendinger said after exiting his car.  “When we had that late restart, my guys told me to go for the lead, but to make sure above all else to keep that M&M’s car out of victory lane.  And we made that happen today.”
Allmendinger credited his success to a new pre-race ritual—harassing Michael Waltrip.
“I don’t know what it was about smacking that hat off Mikey’s head—wait, of course I do, it made me feel good!”, Allmendinger said.  “Next week at Texas I’m thinking I try to brand him with an iron.  Or maybe I make him eat that stupid ear-cam that he wears—the possibilities are endless.”
Allmendinger said that he hopes to take today’s strong finish and turn it into momentum for the rest of the season.
“This just shows what this little team can do—well, I say ‘little’, but Brad Daugherty’s seven-foot-something”, Allmendinger continued.  “When we put our minds to it, we can keep a top Truck Series guy like Kyle Busch out of victory lane.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need some oxygen tanks ready—I’m going to try and read through all my sponsors in one breath.”