Monday, March 16, 2009

Off-week Odds and Ends

I heard a discussion on Sirius NASCAR Radio the other day about what the listeners felt made a good race. That's a great topic because there's no real right or wrong answer because what's good for me might not be good for the guy sitting next to me.

For the majority of race fans out there, a good race is one in which their favorite driver does particularly well. It might not be a win, but a top-five or even a top-ten finish. For some drivers even making the race and finishing somewhere near the lead lap with the car in one piece is a good day and their fans also go away happy.

The hosts, Rick Benjamin and Chocolate Myers, asked the fans their thoughts and almost to a person they said that passing makes a good race. Some said they thought restrictor plates should be used more because the races at Daytona and Talladega always are exciting with the endless passes for position. Most also said they thought races at Pocono and Fontana were boring because the cars get too spread out.

One of the best races I ever watched in person was at little quarter-mile Anderson Speedway. It was the 1994 Anderson 400 for the old ASA. Twenty-six cars started for 400 laps around the bullring. For those who don't know it, Anderson is the track that Dick Trickle first described as "flying jet fighters in a gynmasium". The action is close and there isn't a lot of room to move if trouble breaks out in front of you.

According to many, if you looked at the stats this could be seen as a "boring" race. Winner Steve Holzhausen led all 400 laps. No lead changes to some means a boring show, right? Not in this case. Mike Eddy was pounding on the back door for much of the race and chased hard the last 100 laps, finishing second by less than a car length. There was a lot of short track bumps and thumps along the way too. some of the drivers that could have challenged Holzhausen found the going a little rough and spent some time in the infield for repairs.

Passing doesn't necessarily equate to a good race to me. In my eyes, restrictor plate racing tends to get to be a little boring because the best cars don't necessarily finish up front. The action seems fake to me because of the numerous rules set to keep all of the cars in one big pack. It's just not my cup of tea.

To me a good race has the following: a competitive race at the front; action and competition through the field; drivers running hard from green to checkered; and maybe a few plot twists and unexpected occurrences along the way.


A quick note to Chocolate Myers, who was discussing the chances for victory by teams that lease engines from other teams: he had said that the first driver to win with a leased engine was Joe Nemechek who won at Kansas in 2004 with MB2 Motorsports. Engine leases have become popular in recent years as many smaller teams can no longer afford their own engine departments. However, engine leases date back decades. In 1984 Richard Petty picked up wins No. 199 and 200 with engines leased from the DiGard team.


We've seen a lot of talk lately about the start-and-park phenomenon that has now seemingly infiltrated the Cup Series. It's been a part of the Truck and Nationwide series for many years and now that the economics are making more sense, it's taken hold in the Cup Series too. I don't understand the outcry from the fans. If you watch 43 cars take the green flag and on lap 20 there are 41 running, can you really tell the difference?


It's neat to see the Mattioli family and the ARCA RE/MAX Series name the recently announced Mansfield race after the late Tim Richmond. The Richmond family was from Ashland, which is 20 minutes from Mansfield. Richmond also had a lot of success at the Mattioli's Pocono track, winning a couple of times there including his final career victory in 1987. It would be neat to see the Richmond family in attendance and see one of his old cars come out of the Hendrick museum and be displayed to the fans. Hopefully the Mattiolis can make that happen.


I have yet to have one kid tell me "I really like that cartoon gopher on Fox." So why do we continually read comments from bloggers and journalists that say the character has found a following with children? And if the character is so popular with kids, why isn't it showing up in the ratings?

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