Nascar Re-Names Homestead-Miami Cup Race “Game 7”

As the latest change to Nascar’s ever-evolving Playoff (formerly Chase) format, the organization has announced that the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway has officially been renamed from the Ford EcoBoost 400 to simply Game 7.
“We’re proud of all our corporate partners, from Toyota to Ford to Toyota”, said Nascar chairman Brian France, “but we really feel that by renaming the race to Game 7, we’re communicating to the public just how much of a ‘Game 7’ experience it will be.”
The move is just the latest change in an attempt to bring a so-called “Game 7” feel to the final race of the season, in which four eligible drivers will have equal chances to both win the race AND the season-long championship…for some reason.
“No race is more important than any other”, France explained, “but Game 7 is roughly seven-times more important than any other race.  And the nine other playoff races are also more important than any other races, except for the 600 which is worth roughly 33 percent more than other regular season races due to it having a fourth stage.  What I’m trying to say is, simplicity is the key.”
Several other names were rumored to be part of the change, with preliminary logos for an “Avco Cup 400” race and “The Million Dollar Game 400” floating around online.
“People may wonder where games one through six went”, France said, “well, that’s our whole rest of the season.  Other sports only have game sevens once in a while—well, we’re having ours every single year.  Because nothing makes something more special than doing it year after year—just like night racing.”
The move is believed to be the final of many changes that have happened to Nascar in this year, with any further changes focusing on the forthcoming 2018 season, including a reported radical change to the All-Star Race format that would see the unprecedented removal of all stages from the race.

Denny Hamlin Earns Tryouts with NFL Teams as Punter

Mere moments after today’s First Data 500 concluded in Martinsville, driver Denny Hamlin found a number of job offers coming in from a unique group—NFL teams searching for new punters.
“I know that the NFL focuses on every phase of the game, and the focus on Special Teams is bigger than ever”, Hamlin said upon exiting hims car.  “But I guess they’ve seen what I can do on the track and want to see it translate over to the football world.
“I’ve never thought of myself as much of a punter”, Hamlin explained, “but after today, I guess people have seen what I can do.”
Hamlin has received varying degrees of interest from almost every NFL team, save for the Atlanta Falcons.  He’s also reportedly been contacted by several new possible sponsors, including varying plowing services and bumper car providers.
“I might just have a second career after today”, Hamlin said.  “Heck, even Chase Elliott wanted to tell me about how great I am at punting.  Nascar will always be my top focus, but as my mentor Michael Jordan has shown me, you can pursue two sports in your career.  And always focus on winning to the exclusion of everything else.”

For his part, Chase Elliott was heard complaining that Hamlin had ruined his chance to finish runner-up again.

Uncle Max: Martinsville Weekend Picks

Weekly picks from Spade Racing’s writer/webmaster/janitor Mike Mackler’s uncle.

Editor’s Note: Uncle Max came back from vacation early this morning, then apparently drove directly to work to deal with an emergency.  He texted me his picks a few minutes ago.

Anyways, here’s my picks for the upcoming race weekend at Martinsville (total wins in parenthesis):

Texas Roadhouse 200 (5 wins)—Christopher Bell—the leader of the crowded future of JGR keeps on rolling.

Cup Series First Data 500:  FAVORITE (5 wins)—Denny Hamlin—just too hard to pick against the hometown master.  NEXT FAVORITE (2 wins)—Martin Truex Jr.—just too hard to pick against the 2017 season-long master.  DARK HORSE*—Joey Logano—just too easy to go and pick Reed Sorenson.

*—NOTE—during the Cup Playoffs, a Dark Horse must be a driver who is out of championship contention.

BREAKING NEWS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gets “The Call”

A long-held conspiracy theory amongst Nascar fans appears to have been partially-confirmed this week, as sources have said that retiring driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has received “The Call” in advance of the upcoming race at Martinsville Speedway.
“The whole race shop has been buzzing about it—the call came in to Junior himself earlier today”, an unidentified member of Hendrick Motorsports stated on the condition of anonymity.  I was there—he asked everybody else in the shop to step away from him while he took the incoming call on a secure line.  You could tell he really didn’t want to be bothered with anything else in the world at that moment.”
Fans, detractors, and even some Nascar media members have claimed that “The Call” would be coming in to Dale Jr. sometime before the end of the season, although no form of confirmation was available until just now.
“Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but the timing is just too perfect, isn’t it?”, an unidentified media member told us on the condition of anonymity.  “I mean, Junior finds out he’s gonna be a father, he only has a handful of races left—what better time to ‘Take Care of Things’ via ‘The Call’ than right now?”
Hendrick Motorsports, for their part, was coy in a prepared statement issued in response to the uproar over “The Call”.
“We at Hendrick Motorsports appreciate the interest fans give our drivers on a daily basis—yes, even Kasey Kahne.  However, we choose not to comment on such personal matters as what types of phone calls come in to our drivers.  Seriously, get a life, people.”
When reached for comment, Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself shocked experts by confirming receipt of “The Call” just as suspected by the media.

“Yeah, it’d been awhile since I got ‘The Call’, but I guess its my time, isn’t it?” Dale Jr. confirmed.  “I know it won’t make some people happy, but I really do need to get to the dentist.  I’m just glad they confirmed the appointment with me by phone this time.”

November Named Nascar Awareness Month

Fresh of the yearly success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a now-annual October activism campaign embraced by many in the Nascar community, Nascar has announced that starting this year, November will be known as Nascar Awareness Month.
“We feel that its important that fans are aware of Nascar, and that November—with the conclusion of our annual Playoffs, is the perfect time to experience it”, said a Nascar spokesman.  “We will be working with fans, corporations, and other sports nationwide to help spread our message to the public at-large.
While Awareness Months are usually limited to charitable organizations, Nascar has stated that its aims are, in a sense, of a charitable nature.
“While this program will not benefit the Nascar Foundation per se, we feel that Nascar is in a position in which awareness is to its greatest benefit”, the spokesman said.  “We feel that with the sport at the lowest its been in years in terms of at-track attendance and tv ratings, the time is now for fans to join us for the inevitable rebound.  And by doing so, fans will be given the greatest charity of all—relevance and the ‘cool factor’ we all want so much.”
To support the campaign, Nascar has unveiled its very own “awareness ribbon” that teams will be encouraged to sport on their cars for the final month of the season.  Furthermore, fans will be given “call to action” brochures at next week’s race in order to kick-off the campaign.
“Are your friends aware of Nascar?”, the brochure reads.  “If not, they should be.  Help promote Nascar awareness today by telling your friends and family what a great time you had at the race this afternoon.  Nascar—be aware of us.”

Nascar so far been unsuccessful in getting any of the “big four” sports leagues to join in by wearing the ribbons on their uniforms, although apparently Nascar chairman Brian France was said to be having productive talks with both the World Hockey Association and the United States Football League.

Uncle Max: Kansas Weekend Picks

Weekly picks from Spade Racing’s writer/webmaster/janitor Mike Mackler’s uncle.

Hey its Uncle Max, coming at you LIVE from the tropics!  That’s right, I’m on vacation this week!  Nothing like some great sun, good drinks, and comped food to make you forget your troubles.
That’s right, not even the fact that I’m middle-aged and divorced without a family, that my girlfriend I was supposed to meet down here was arrested on wire fraud the day before I left, that I’m looking at an 80 hour work week when I get back to the USA, that my townhouse’s rent went up again starting next month, that my picks last week torpedoed my credibility, that my fantasy football team is 2-4…damnit, I need another $12 drink.

Anyways, here’s my picks for the upcoming race weekend at Charlotte (total wins in parenthesis):

Kansas Lottery 300 (6 wins)—Christopher Bell—the kid’s the real deal.

Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400:  FAVORITE (5 wins)—Kyle Busch—if Jamie Mac wins this race I’m bashing my head through a wall.  NEXT FAVORITE (2 wins)—Kyle Larson—can’t hurt to guarantee yourself into the next round, no matter how many points you have.  DARK HORSE*—Erik Jones—a last hurrah for the 77 team (…until they bring it back for C.Bell in 2019).

*—NOTE—during the Cup Playoffs, a Dark Horse must be a driver who is out of championship contention.

Spade Racing Movie Previews: Fall Transitional Edition

We’re between the summer blockbuster and winter prestige seasons for movies.  As a result, there’s plenty of oddball films coming out to distract the public from the stresses of everyday life in Hollywood.  Here’s a few coming out soon with a Nascar theme to them:

Wonderstruck—A race fan is rendered unable to complain about Nascar and is stunned to see how much more enjoyable things are.

The Snowman—New Hampshire prepares to have its race date moved to November.  Again.

Geostorm—Dale Earnhardt Jr. tells the story of his first passenger car.

Only the Brave—Non-race fans react to seeing pit crew members get hit by cars.

Dealt—Inside Nascar’s plans to adapt to a world without Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Brian Scott, Carl Edwards, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the track.

The Work—some guy your uncle knows who used to work with Richard Childress’s plumber explains how Nascar fixes every race.

Michael Waltrip Found Wandering Around Talladega Garage Area

Despite today’s race having been covered by NBC Sports, Fox Sports Nascar commentator and former driver Michael Waltrip was seen conspicuously walking around the Talladega Superspeedway garage and pit area today, for reasons yet to be determined.
"I brought my driver's suit!"
“I thought it was kind of weird that Mikey was still here after covering yesterday’s Trucks race”, said driver and former MWR employee Clint Bowyer.  “He came by and we talked for a little bit, I wanted to keep it light since it was only a half-hour before the race started, but he kept steering the conversation back to when he used to race.”
Waltrip, who scored one of his four points-paying Cup Series career wins at the vaunted track, appeared to be inspecting a number of cars’ roofs on the starting grid.  Numerous fans heard him mutter “No roof hatches anymore—not like when I won it all here back in 2003 for Dale Sr.’s old team” to nobody in particular.
Waltrip later approached driver and former teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the lengthy pre-race ceremonies honoring Dale Jr. for his retirement from the sport.  Waltrip’s appearance appeared to come as a surprise to Dale Jr., who was in the middle of an on-air interview when he was approached.
“Hey, remember when we used to double-team to get some wins out on the track!”, Waltrip told a mildly surprised Earnhardt, who mentioned not realizing that Waltrip “would be doing anything this weekend”.  Despite the interview segment having ended, Waltrip was heard saying, “You know I wouldn’t miss a chance to give some winners’ advice here at Talladega or Daytona!”
Waltrip, whose career ended with several races each year only on the circuit’s restrictor plate tracks, was later seen during the race sitting alone in an unused room in the media center, and appeared to be talking to an unseen person.
"Chris, these cats have gotta keep it together at 200 miles per hour—and I know from first-hand experience just how hard it is to win one of these things”, Waltrip was overheard saying into a Pringles can fashioned to resemble a microphone.  “Its just amazing what they can do out there, just like I used to.”

Uncle Max: Talladega Weekend Picks

Weekly picks from Spade Racing’s writer/webmaster/janitor Mike Mackler’s uncle.

Good news, everybody—well, at least good news for me—I’m seeing someone!  We’ve been dating here and there for the past two months but I wanted to keep it on the down-low until we were “officially exclusive”.  We met online but it turns out she works in an office only a block away from where I work, which works out great for us.
Speaking of which, me and the new lucky lady are going to be taking our first real vacation together—totally by accident!  I always take off a week in October to get one last chance to “recharge the batteries” before the holiday rush, and had booked five days at a resort.  Turns out she had done the same thing at the same place for almost the same days!  So we might be flying in about a day apart, but we’ll be soaking up some sun together south of the old border.

Anyways, here’s my picks for the upcoming race weekend at Charlotte (total wins in parenthesis):

Truck Series Fred’s 250 (5 wins)—Matt Crafton—the wily vet beats out the next generation.

Cup Series Alabama 500:  FAVORITE (5 wins)—Jamie McMurray—the winless streak ends with #1 in first.  NEXT FAVORITE (2 wins)—Ricky Stenhouse Jr.—his third plate win propels him past Jimmy Spencer.  DARK HORSE*—Clint Bowyer—the 14 crew states their case to be the rebound team of 2018 a little early.

*—NOTE—during the Cup Playoffs, a Dark Horse must be a driver who is out of championship contention.

PJ1—All About Nascar’s Sticky Situation

2017 has been the first year that’s seen Nascar use traction-improving substances on race tracks on a large scale.  So what the heck is this stuff?  Let’s find out.

What is it?  PJ1, a resin-like liquid chemical compound that makes tracks as sticky as a movie theater floor.

Wasn’t it called VHT?  Yes, but the company decided to change the name in order to comply with Nascar’s “Let’s Make Everything Complicated” directive for 2017.

Where has it been used before?  Mostly in NHRA to improve traction on drag strips.  Its part of Nascar’s attempt to adopt certain aspects of high-level drag racing such as full grandstands and non-pissy fans.

How does it work?  It improves traction where applied, allowing for a second racing groove where they was none before.  Sort of like dating two girls at the same time—you’re committed to one, but you can make things happen with the other.

What problem does this solve?  The issue of side-by-side racing, which is roughly #14 on the list of things Nascar should be worrying about at the moment.

WWE/Nascar Hell in a Cell

Columbus Day Weekend means two things—people misspelling it as “Colombus”, and the WWE’s annual Nascar “Hell in a Cell” Pay Per View event…which people will misname as “Hell In THE Cell”.  Here’s the lineup for the event:

(Card Subject to Change)

Austin Cindric vs. Chase Briscoe—winner gets the #12 Penske Xfinity ride next season

Main Show Preliminary Matches
Cody Ware vs. Matt DiBenedetto in a “Loser Admits He’s Lying” match

Bubba Wallace Jr. vs. Kurt Busch vs. Matt Kenseth vs. Danica Patrick in a Sponsorship on a Pole Match

Interview Segment: Ryan Newman in Jeff Gordon’s Garage

Hendrick HellHouse Match: Yesterday’s News (Dale Earnhardt Jr. & Kasey Kahne) vs. The Not Ready for Cup Racing Players (William Byron & Alex Bowman)—Tornado Tag rules, match is held at Hendrick Motorsports, both competitors must make it out of the complex first to win

Championship Matches
Tag Team Championship: The Penske File (Brad Keselowski & Joey Logano) vs. Coach’s Kids (Denny Hamlin & mystery partner who’s totally not a former Washington Redskin, so don’t even think that)—no encumbrances barred

International Championship: Daniel Suarez vs. Alon Day

Women’s Championship: Danica Patrick vs. relevance

Nascar Championship: Martin Truex Jr. vs. Kyle Busch vs. Kyle Larson in the Hell in a Cell

Uncle Max: Charlotte Weekend Picks

Weekly picks from Spade Racing’s writer/webmaster/janitor Mike Mackler’s uncle.

Whew!  Finally, I get a day off from work!  We have virtually everything ready for the Christmas rush—all we’ll have to do is take down the Halloween stuff on November 1st—and all our merchandise is ready to roll.  That meant for the first time in a month, I actually got a Sunday off!
Watching the race live for the first time in a while was a bit of an odd experience.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the past few months (and my picks reflect that!), but there’s still plenty of questions.  Like, who’s idea was it to have a bunch of sand barrels on the track?  If you have to have them there, why not fill them with water—at least you can get rid of THAT in a few seconds.  Instead we had to watch some schlubs trying to get grains of sand off of asphalt and concrete—nothing like some of that for fan excitement.

Anyways, here’s my picks for the upcoming race weekend at Charlotte (total wins in parenthesis):

Xfinity Series Drive Drive for the Cure 300 (6 wins)—Elliott Sadler—well, if Dale Jr. can’t win his last race at his home track, maybe one of his drivers can do him a solid.

Cup Series Apache Warrior 400:  FAVORITE (5 wins)—Kyle Busch—the candyman continues his sweet run.  NEXT FAVORITE (2 wins)—Jimmie Johnson—dominating like he used to own the place.  DARK HORSE*—Erik Jones—slides by Chase Elliott to win his first Cup race.

*—NOTE—during the Cup Playoffs, a Dark Horse must be a driver who is out of championship contention.

The 1990’s Owner-Driver Fad in Nascar

Tony Stewart was the closest thing Nascar
had to a modern owner-driver, but did so
with the considerable financial partnership
of Gene Haas.
In the sport’s early days, Nascar owner-drivers were not uncommon throughout Nascar’s top level series.  As the years progressed, however, and the sport become more specialized and much more expensive, owner-drivers became the provence of independents, Richard Petty, and virtually nobody else.

Then Alan Kulwicki came along.

Kulwicki essentially took an independent team that he owned and, through hard work, knowhow, and sheer will, transformed it into a championship team, winning it all in 1992.  Tragically, Kulwicki’s run at the top would be extremely short-lived, as he was killed in a plane crash shortly after the start of the 1993 season.

However, Kulwicki left a number of Nascar drivers wondering if they, too, could do it all—run their own team and drive it at the same time.  Here now are the stories of those who did so, where they succeeded, and where they failed—and the aftermath.

(NOTE: not included are independent teams like Joe Nemechek’s, or Dale Earnhardt Inc., which while being owned by a driver, didn’t have that driver, Dale Earnhardt Sr., actually driving for that team).

Darrell Waltrip—Darrell Waltrip Motorsports (1991-1997).  Also known as DarWal Inc., DW’s team was an outgrowth of his successful run with Hendrick Motorsports, as Waltrip took his crew chief (Jeff Hammond), his car number (17), and an agreement to receive engines from HMS to start his own team in 1991 with Western Auto sponsorship.  Waltrip’s team got off to a rousing start, posting five wins over their first two seasons.  However, in 1993 Waltrip’s team took a major nosedive in on-track performance, something Waltrip himself has since blamed on moving engine production in-house.  The team would survive until a disastrous start to the 1997 season with new sponsor Speedblock would see Waltrip sell DWM to Tim Beverley, eventually winding down his racing career in 2000 with Travis Carter.

Geoff Bodine—Geoff Bodine Racing (1993-1997).  Influenced by Alan Kulwicki’s success more than most, Bodine bought the assets of AK Racing following Kulwicki’s passing, inheriting the team’s iconic #7…and little else.  In its first full season (1994), Bodine would take his car to victory lane four times (including that year’s All-Star Race), but the team would endure a setback the following year as Hoosier Tires, for which GBR was the lead team, was forced to withdraw from the sport.  In 1995, now with new sponsor QVC, Bodine scored a landmark win at his home track of Watkins Glen, becoming the first Nascar Cup driver to successful “run the race backwards” in reference to pit strategy.  However, this would turn out to be his final win, as team performance would suffer from then on.  Bodine would sell part of his team to Jim Mattei in 1998, then sell the team completely and leave to drive for Joe Bessey in 1999.  Bodine would run primarily for lower-budgeted teams on a part-time basis for the rest of his career, retiring after the 2012 season.

Bill Elliott—Bill Elliott Racing (1995-2000).  Elliott was coming off a somewhat disappointing final two years with Junior Johnson when he decided to form his own team with business associate Charles Hardy and major sponsorship from McDonalds.  Elliott, who split from Hardy in 1996, would post consistent results in the #94 but was rarely a threat to win in his owner-driver run.  A year-long experiment running a second team in partnership with Dan Marino would do little good, and Elliott would wind up selling his team to Ray Evernham following the 2000 season.  Evernham would use the 94 team as a basis for his Evernham Motorsports Dodge-backed team, keeping Elliott as the driver of the renumbered 9 car.  Elliott would see a career renaissance with Evernham, winning four races over the following three years.

Brett Bodine—Brett Bodine Racing (1996-2003).  Journeyman Brett Bodine (brother of Geoff) bought the teams of former owner Junior Johnson, inheriting sponsor Lowe’s, combining it with the defunct team of another former owner, Kenny Bernstein.  After that first year the team would go through a series of sponsors, business partners, and almost total sub-par on-track performance.  The team’s last full-time year would come in 2002, followed by a part-time effort in 2003.  Shortly afterwards Bodine would retire from racing and currently serves as Nascar’s Cup Series pace car driver.

Kyle Petty—PE2 (1997-1998).  Kyle Petty left SABCO Racing after five mostly-successful years to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps of running his own Cup team.  Dubbed PE2, the car ran with Petty Enterprises technical support (hence the name), but was otherwise a separate entity.  Sponsorship from Hot Wheels allowed Petty to finish 15th in points in 1997 and nearly win at the second Dover race—however, the team would bottom out the following year, sinking to 30th in points with only two top-tens all season.  In 1999 Petty would merge his team with Petty Enterprises and become its CEO, staying there until the team shut down in 2008.

18 Team Seeks to Reacquire Pit Crew Member Who Did Everything

Despite a stellar performance on-track to start the Nascar Playoffs, the Joe Gibbs Racing crew of Kyle Busch is still attempting to bring staffer Christina Printz back to the team, as apparently she was responsible for virtually every non-essential activity for the team. 
Leaked photo of Kyle's replacement crew
"When we made the decision to switch the 18 & 19 teams' pit crews, we knew there would be some hiccups", said team owner and scab enthusiast Joe Gibbs. "What we've found, however, is that Christina was really the lynchpin to keeping the 18 team running like a well-oiled machine."
Printz, who was not made available for comment, apparently held such diverse responsibilities as relaying pit road speeds to crew chief Adam Stevens, making sure the 18 team's air guns operated at a higher pitch than everyone else's, and making sure that Kyle Busch got his water bottle to suck on after every race. 
"You don't really know what you're missing until it's gone, and that's what we're missing with Christina being reassigned to the 19 team", Busch said. "Heck--normally she'd be the one letting me know the media wanted to talk to me and I'd have been able to avoid this interview."
Printz is said to be rapidly turning the 19 crew around, specifically by keeping NBC Sports producers away from driver Daniel Suarez.