Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Chase... Elimination needed in Playoffs

Okay. I have to admit… I’m one of those guys that REALLY gets sick and tired of all the analysts in NCAA Football who’ve come up with the “perfect” solution to the BCS System. The implication being that the BCS System is flawed and these yahoos—of varied degrees of intelligence—are going to fix the whole thing.

It’s comical, unrealistic, and downright dense at its core. It simply never ends.

The biggest premise is that most NCAA Football fanatics just want a playoff style system built into College Football. They are SCREAMING for it.

Well, you have to hand it to the France Family. If there is one thing they have always seemed to realize, it is simply this—NASCAR needs its fans happy. It seems to me that NASCAR has always focused more on the fans over the sport’s own players. The scales may be close, but I would say it tips more so in the fan’s direction than that of the drivers and crews.

To that end, Brian France implemented The Chase for the Championship. Just seeing it in print it looks pretty damn cool. The format is designed to give us our sport’s version of a playoff system. I think the idea and concept of the chase has now been with us long enough to solidify the concept for NASCAR fans as a major factor of the sport. Not only that, but if Jeff Gordon were to win the chase this year, I think the last of the “I liked the old Cup version better” voices would fade away completely. After all, Gordon’s four previous Cups came under the old NASCAR points system. His winning this Cup silences the argument.

If there is anything we should realize about this points system, it is that it’s always evolving. In an effort to find the right television ratings balance for the chase’s impact, Brian France has continuously made tweaks to the system. Each year we start in Daytona with Darrell, Larry Mac, and Mike Joy explaining to us the changes which were brought about by NASCAR to the points system in the off-season.

And I have to say, I think this year they hit the right changes and have made the chase a relevant and prevalent presence the entire season. The impact of two wild card spots and the significance of a win related to these two spots has been a running theme all year long. Good Job NASCAR.

But the 10 billion dollar elephant in the room is not the fans; it’s the National Football League. I would guess it’s just my cynicism, but I look at the overall picture and think to myself, “Self” (much as Garth Brooks, that’s what I call myself in my mind) I say, “Self, what’s NASCAR’s biggest problem this time of year?” And of course the answer is the N. F. L. Period. NASCAR, every year, has an immediate impact slammed into their collective ratings face; football season starts.

So, to me, it seems that part of the reason for implementing the chase was to combat ratings that take a nose dive every September and to some degree I think it has worked, but maybe not as well as some might have hoped. Has this increased the ratings by focusing more attention on a handful of drivers in the chase scenario? Sure, but perhaps it’s not enough. Football still dominates. It may very well ALWAYS dominate, but that does not mean things can’t be improved.

I think Brian France got it right—the idea of the chase is to raise interest in what will happen, to turn up the intensity dial a notch and make an end season impact. And Brian France has also shown he is willing to make the adjustments to the system to get it right. But NASCAR needs to take the next logical step. Every other sport that has a playoff system has an elimination feature built into their playoffs. All of them, that is, except NASCAR.

We identify our playoff contenders then go back to a tired scenario—run races and gain points. But there’s no real consequence other than if you win you get more points. There is a sense of urgency built into the system and there’s no do or die implications other than a DNF having hard impact.

Where’s our elimination? Don’t we need that for it to be a true playoff?

You want to turn our last few races of the year into a really big deal? Give us Superbowl contenders. Start eliminating drivers in the chase. PERIOD.

There are—under the current incarnation of the chase—twelve drivers for ten races. I say you turn this thing on its head and start eliminating drivers every two races.

It works like this…

- After the first two chase races, drivers in position 11 & 12 are eliminated from chase contention.
- After the 3rd & 4th chase races, drivers in position 10 & 9 are eliminated from chase contention.
- After the 5th & 6th chase races, drivers in position 8 & 7 are eliminated from chase contention.

And the kicker…

- After the 7th chase race, a SINGLE RACE ELIMINATION occurs. The drivers in position 6 & 5 are eliminated from chase contention
- The remaining four drivers determine the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in the final three races.

I think the implications of this will have many outcomes, most of which will be some damn hard racing by drivers who’ve already been given a NASCAR mandate of boys have at it. Admittedly, I am only one voice in an ocean of voices. However, I think this is the final and perhaps best tweak that can be made to our chase. I think we need this to propel the end of the season to where it has always belonged—at the focal point of the sporting world.

-Name withheld, no kitchen pass issued.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NASCAR Safety now NASCAR Complacency? Yep... "Boys have at it!"

I’m not sure exactly where the line was crossed, when the pendulum swung… when we just decided things were ‘a-ok’ to change.

Complacency is an odd thing. It seems to be bred from the comfort zone. We get in the comfort zone and just relax… maybe a little too much. When once relaxed, the little things start to slip by until one day you take a look at the bigger picture and have to wonder, “How did we get here?”

I think that this is the state of affairs at the moment for NASCAR: Complacency.

Because their focus certainly is NOT safety. Last night in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway I began to get very curious about where NASCAR’s mind for safety is these days. Concern soon changed gears and became bewilderment.

In the early stages of the race, Carl Edwards was involved in a wreck which caused his car to sustain what appeared to be minor damage. The hit to the inside wall did not appear to be sufficient to remove him from the race. In fact, his crew brought him into the Pits under the caution and sent him back out quickly before the race resumed under Green.

However, Carl was soon back in the pits. Reports from various sources on Twitter, soon followed by TNT’s Race broadcast Team, was that Carl was beginning to feel sick in his car. The reason he was feeling sick was due to the damage the car had sustained. Carbon Monoxide fumes were making their way into the driver’s compartment. The fumes were making him sick.

Now stop and think about this for a minute. NASCAR monitors all team radio communications. So NASCAR knew that Carl Edwards was being subjected to elevated levels of Carbon Monoxide. But NASCAR simply turned a blind eye to this situation.

In the meantime, Carl is pacing laps on the track under green with 42 other drivers at speeds in excess of 180+mph. Yeah, I guess there’s no cause for concern over this, huh NASCAR? I guess having a guy out there who could simply pass out at any moment just isn’t that big of a deal in the eyes of the men who have coined “Boys have at it” recently.

Let’s be clear here… Carbon Monoxide poisoning is no little deal. There is no difference here than people starting their cars in closed garages at their home, falling asleep, and simply dying. Be it from an accidental occurrence or intended suicide, this is a very common occurrence in our country… people are all very aware of the dangers of this type of poisoning / asphyxiation from Carbon Monoxide fumes. But NASCAR let him return to the track? Why?

Which leads me to ask… do the cars even HAVE detection devices for Carbon Monoxide monitoring? If a small piece of metal can mean the difference between the driver breathing or the driver breathing deadly fumes… don’t you think NASCAR ought to monitor this?

The simple answer is yes, they should. Carbon Monoxide monitors are very low cost, and are made in extremely small sizes. They are used in many manufacturing industries and could be placed in a car in a size closely similar to that of a C-cell Battery.

Ok, this is just one occurrence you may say to yourself. Fine. One thing… hmmm, okay.

Then let’s talk about last lap cautions, shall we? No, no… wait. I want to talk about last lap cautions at tracks where, oh I don’t know… men have lost their lives in last lap accidents.

The sole root purpose of cautions is to recognize a need for safety. To slow down cars to keep people from getting hurt. It’s reactionary for the drivers, they see yellow.. they slow down and their focus becomes safety. That’s it in a nutshell.

So what happened, NASCAR?

Last lap of the race a BIG wreck occurs… and NASCAR reacts by doing NOTHING. They should have thrown the caution, froze the field, and the race was done. Because if they do not… then additional wrecks can occur and more people could get hurt.

And let’s be clear here… this first wreck on the last lap was no simple one car incident where the track was clean enough to continue racing. No… this occurred with many cars behind the wreck and at full speed. NASCAR owed the drivers the due diligence to throw the caution to protect them. Period.

Not only that, the race had already been extended with the ‘Green/White/Checkered’ policy. That NASCAR policy specifically states that if the wreck occurs on the white flag lap, the field will be frozen and the race has ended. But yet… why, we didn’t get that, did we? No… looks like good ‘ole complacency took over.

As we all know, NASCAR did not throw the caution at the wreck and yet a second wreck occurred which collected many more people (at full speed no less). This second last lap wreck should have never happened. Not in the NASCAR where safety has priority.

Where have your views of driver safety and due diligence gone, NASCAR?

“Boys have it” should never result in complacency in the realm of driver safety.

But yet here we are. Complacency has reared its ugly head. I guess it’ll take another death to refocus your efforts. After all, it only cost us the life of Dale Earnhardt to cause any action previously.

“Boys have at it” indeed.

-Name withheld, no kitchen pass issued.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Waltrip to Hall of Fame... before his full impact is recognized.

Yeah, we've all seen the Iggy (icky?) Shuffle for years on the clips. 'Ole 'Dee Dubya' dancing around... yelling, "I won the Daytona 500... I WON THE DAYTONA 500... this is the Daytona 500, isn't it?"

Mike Joy trying desperately to hold his composure as Darrel Waltrip basked in his day. It brings a smile to the faces of many NASCAR fans, certainly.

And, truth be told, we may just see him do it again at the induction. Perhaps he'll get all that out of his system before the actual induction ceremonies. But again, who knows... this is DW after all.

However, I have to wonder... maybe this is too soon. I am not arguing the wisdom behind Waltrip being qualified for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NOT AT ALL. I think his qualifications in just racing alone should have qualified him for the 2nd class induction actually. That's an argument many have had. And I for one could have easily accepted his induction in the second class.

But... there are a whole slew of new NASCAR fans whose images of Waltrip are so much more solidified in his role as a FOX Sports Television commentator / analyst. And, let's be honest here, rightfully so.

For my money (which is little, as I don't pay to watch NASCAR races... I just put up with the commercials) The team assembled by FOX Sports for NASCAR is far superior than any other previous or present NASCAR broadcast team. They simple exceed anything anyone else does. From the first fateful day this crew stepped into the spotlight for the 2001 Daytona 500 they have been magical. And Darrell Waltrip is and has always been a KEY FACTOR in that magic.

On that day in February 2001 DW uttered three phrases that will live on forever in the hearts of most NASCAR fans.

1. Boogity, Boogity, Boogity... Let's go Racin' Boys!

This catch phrase has BECOME a part of NASCAR and a part of FOX Sports. Not one single other Sports Commentator has any phrase more closely tied to them. Perhaps Marv Albert has a couple tied him. I know the "Let's get ready to rumble" is Michael Buffers from now until the end of time. But Buffer isn't exactly anything other than a ring side announcer. Had Waltrip not succeeded in the booth this phrase would not have survived. But Waltrip is (as I already said) a key ingredient in the magic that is the FOX NASCAR team. He, along with that entire crew, has not only survived.. they have thrived. And "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity... let's go racin' boys" is a sprinkling of the salt that brings the flavor.

2. "Go Mikey.... you got it... YOU GOT IIIIIIIIT!!!!!"

It's just not that often in our sport that things line up the way they did for the Waltrips on this day. (An understatement if ever one was stated... but we'll get to that.) Darrell's brother Michael racing for the win in the Daytona 500 while his brother was in the broadcaster's booth. We were given Ned Jarrett urging on his son for the Daytona 500 win several years prior. But there were some real differences between the careers of the drivers in these two instances. And Michael's struggles in the NASCAR world were well known and recognized. And here is his brother, a former Champion... Legend actually, in the Booth calling on his brother as he ran to his FIRST EVER points win in the series. The joy heard in Darrell's voice was about his love for his brother... for KNOWING the impact his life had always had on his little brother... and seeing his brother accomplish the ultimate win in their shared sport. Darrell knew the pain and frustration of all the years of Michael's struggles. Darrell knew those pains were compounded by the fact that he had been ever so successful while his brother faced his struggles. Darrell and Michael each know and share these things, because after all... they are brothers. Brothers simply know... they know even what they do not speak.

Darrell calling his brother to the line... that all came out in that moment. So many unspoken words.

3. "I hope Dale's O.K."

But as well all know, he wasn't. I simply do not want to go into the depths of this or I won't be able to finish writing this post.

We all hoped he was O.K., Darrel. We prayed for him to be O.K. But he wasn't. And I dare say that for perhaps 10 full years, neither was NASCAR. Yeah... seeing the success that JR. & Mikey went on to have in those DEI cars sure healed some of the wounds. But the very visible scars remained.

The point of all of this is to say... that simply in one single day... one day... DW had a huge impact on this sport. Not as a driver, but as a Commentator. On his first day on the job.

Darrell Waltrip WAS a Racing Legend. Fine. Darrell Waltrip IS a Sport Broadcasting legend... NOW. He still is. Every time he steps behind the mic with Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds the three of them make magic. The key ingredients are there to make fire happen... fuel, heat & oxygen. The three of them could produce the magic at ANY instant. And knowing that exists makes their impact on this sport a continuous factor every time they call a race.

I congratulate Darrell Waltrip on his induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He deserves it.

But it's simply too soon.

Because if you induct the man now, you will not give him a proper induction for the contributions he will have made to this sport. Because he has not stopped. He is STILL making contributions. His words and the reactions of this broadcast crew have no end to their potential. They react as we the fans react, and voice it so well.

20 years from now, a guy in his mid-40's will wonder the halls at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He will gaze with wonder at the statues, the pictures, the cars. He'll remember his childhood... his love for this sport. He'll remember the moments that had the GREATEST impact on his life while watching this sport. The echoes of the words of Waltrip will still hang in his heart... something Darrell said in the midst of some key moment in NASCAR.

And that moment will not be a single part of Darrell's induction into the Hall of Fame. Because he is being inducted BEFORE it has happened.

Waltrip is not done establishing himself and his impact on this sport. His induction to the Hall of Fame is too soon. Simply too soon.

-Named withheld, no kitchen pass issued.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This just in.... 65yr old Man kicks Kyle Busch's Ass!

OK... so this isn't "exactly" new news. It's been a week ago. But, sometimes it takes us a few days to process things, especially if work interferes.

Been awhile since I started this blog and had ideas that I would come on here on a regular basis and throw out my insanity on the world of NASCAR. Well, obviously things didn't work out quite as I had anticipated.

However, the one bit of prolific commentary I threw out there last year pretty much came to pass just as I had expected. Denny Hamlin did not (much to the chagrin of the sports media as a whole) overcome the powerhouse that is Jimmy Johnson and Chad Knauss. Denny won some races. Good for yooooou. Jimmy won the championship.

That's why all you do is win... races, Denny. lol... except maybe this year, huh Denny-boy?

Now... about recent events. There has been in my lifetime many moments when my perspective of "things" was changed by the direct result of the actions of others. The love of my wife, the birth of my children, the death of a family member... and then there's always the times when I was PUNCHED IN THE FACE!

Certainly, there's really no need to discuss the first few events, we all understand their significance. I want to discuss the last... getting punched in the face. There are really not many more defining moments in the course of a man's life than this one pivotal moment. The actual receiving of the punch... you don't have much control over that. But the way in which you respond (both short & long term) may very well define the punchee for a LOOOOOONG time through the course of his life.

Take for example... oh, I don't know, hmmm.... ahh, Kyle Busch. Here's a guy that aside from his obviously profound skills in a race car is pretty much just a mark above 'douchebag' on the social skills metering stick of life. It must be a family inherited trait, as evidenced in the Older Brother Kurt / Jimmy Spencer interactions of the early 2000's NASCAR Seasons.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not so surprisingly) the Kurt / Jimmy scenario played itself out similarly to the end result of Kyle's situation this past week.

So basically, here's a guy racing TWO DIVISIONS down (Camping World Truck Series) from his primary ride. He gets passed on the last lap by an up and coming driver, cleanly passed no less. And as an 'Ambassador to the Sport' (lol.. what a joke) Kyle repays the pass by attempting to damage the equipment, owned by Richard Childress, by slamming into it on the COOL DOWN lap. Let's be clear, this was not a racing incident... this was a Smartass Kyle Busch post race incident.

Well... as we have all come to find out in the last week, as it turns out, Richard Childress and Kyle Busch have had past discussions about this type of excessive damage to equipment in post race incidents. See, it's not just as simple as Busch paying the guy a rub after the race as an initiation... it's damage to equipment... that someone has to pay for.

So, the man who pays the bills decided he has had enough of the man who costs him money. So he went to discuss this with him yet again.

Here's where this all gets a little bit fuzzy... because Kyle won't admit what he said, Richard was told by NASCAR that he COULD NOT discuss the event with the media and Kyle (the day following the event) was very elusive when he spoke to the media, basically claiming "something happened unfortunately".

Yeah, Kyle. "Something" happened. Your got your ass handed to you by an old man.

Words were exchanged (that we may never be privy to) and then Richard Childress grabbed Kyle Busch, placed him in a headlock, then proceeded to punch Kyle Busch in the face repeatedly until Kyle Busch fell to the ground.


Look, going to a movie these days could run you an easy $25 by the time you buy a ticket, popcorn, drink, etc.

I'll go $15 for film of this. Ok, ok.... $20. Final offer.

Kyle got a message I don't think anyone previously in his young 20-something years has ever delivered to him in such a fashion. Good! It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

The question is, though... how does this effect him moving forward? His immediate reaction to this was to lay on the ground (in a fetal position in my mind's glorified vision of this scenario) and not move as Richard Childress walked away. Now I don't now about any of you... but some guy hits me in the face repeatedly there's gonna be a 65yr old man who's gonna take an ass-whippin' right there. I'm not laying on the ground. I'm getting up primed to fight. I would not just LAY THERE!

But Kyle did. That was the immediate reaction. He layed down. Period.

Yeah, he tried to look all cool the NEXT day in the media... acting like the sun was blinding him when he pulled the sun glasses down over his eyes.... oh aren't you just so clever, Kyle?

But you punked out, dude. We all know it. You know it, NASCAR knows it... and even more satisfyingly, Richard Childress knows it. You punked out... you worm.

So now Kyle has to think about long term. I don't think he's man enough to stand up and say, "I got my ass whipped and learned something." No, that won't happen. I also don't think he's smart enough to look at himself honestly... take a real honest inward look and ask why this happened. No, if he had that level of insight things about him might have changed after he was FIRED from Hendrick Motorsports.

No, I guess now he'll either continue his path of completely being unaware of the douchebag that others see him for, being the smart aleck little kid in school that keeps running his mouth, asking for a beating even after having received many... or he'll simply cower away having gotten the beating he deserved.

Lol... as much as I'd personally like to see him fade away as the coward... I think he's too F-ing stupid to do so.

So... run your mouth, Kyle. We all know you're going to, until the next time someone slams a fist into it... I for one will anxiously count the days.

-Name withheld, no kitchen pass issued.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jimmy Johnson to Denny Hamlin: “All we do is win… Championships!”

I would pay serious money to have just once given Jimmy Johnson the ability to key into Joe Gibbs Racing’s radios at the end of one of the races Denny Hamlin has won recently.

The checkered flag waves as Denny crosses the line, his crew goes crazy, hats fly in the air, and with his window net being unhinged, Denny keys the mic and utters his familiar catch phrase of recent months…

“All we do is win.”

Then you hear the screech of someone else keying in on their frequency.

“Races.” Prods the calm voice of the four time (consecutive no less) Champion, Jimmy Johnson. “All you do is win races, Denny.”

Can someone tell me what we can do to make this happen? I don’t know what the reality is to actually have this occur, but I am guessing NASCAR would levy hefty fines if it ever did. But, oh boy, would it ever make for the stuff of legend.

Of course, we are currently witnessing the events which make up the stuff of tomorrow’s legends. And it’s certainly entertaining, I must admit. But is anyone else getting just a bit tired of the media induced prop-job being performed on Denny Hamlin? It’s not only predictable, it’s repetitively obvious.

I’m not an unabashed Jimmy Johnson fan, but I give credit where credit is due. He and Chad Knaus have had a run in NASCAR’s premiere league that has been unstoppable. But being stopped is exactly what many in the media seem to want, perhaps even demand, in their own way. And the drum beat for it has grown steadily since even before the season started.

The first NASCAR article (aside from those on NASCAR’s own website) I recall seeing in January was in Sports Illustrated. The article was a huge layout about how Denny is coming for Jimmy. The piece was about the Vegas Championship banquet and the after-party thrown by Denny, in which he gave a toast directly to Jimmy to the effect of, “I’m coming for you”. May not be the exact quote, but it's close.

Denny, you do realize he’s been there all along, right?

You don’t have to come after him, you only have yourself to race. Not Jimmy. I don’t recall Jimmy Johnson saying to anyone, “Hey Driver (insert last Champion’s name… who was that again?) I’m coming after you!” He didn’t have to. They raced themselves, they challenged themselves, and they improved for the sake of their own performance.

None of this is to say that Denny’s season has not been remarkable up to this point. It has been. But it’s just those drums echoing in my ears… bang bong bang. They keep pounding those drums about the guy that’s gonna get Jimmy, telling us who it is, telling us how well he has done, how many races he has won. How he won’t be stopped.

Can you hear them? Those media drums echoing? I think I do. I can almost make out the name.. but, but it’s not… it’s not this year’s drums I hear echoing at all. It’s, I think it’s… what’s the name?

Oh yeah, Kyle Bush. That was what we heard last year, right?

Hey Denny, all you do is win... races. Jimmy’s the one with the rings.

-Name withheld. No kitchen pass issued.