2013 NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway: 10 Things That Spun Our Wheels

Kyle Busch Wins the 2013 NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

With one of the speedier NASCAR races under our belt, Kyle Busch won the race over Martin Truex Jr., and both Toyota Camrys were incredibly fast.  Amazingly, Kyle Busch won both the Nationwide and the Sprint Cup series races at Texas Motor Speedway in the same weekend, and he has won back-to-back for the seventh time in his career.

Being one of the better races this season so far, these are 10 things that spun our wheels:

  • Pit problems are recurring ranging from crew members being hit to pit fires.  This season has not been one of the better for pit crews.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s karma stuck hard in this race.  Due to momentous pit problems three times, he could never recover enough to race in the lead lap.
  • Danica Patrick won this race in 28th position, only ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Normalcy is settling in NASCAR, and the media star has finally fallen.
  • Goodyear tires can’t tolerate the high speeds of these Gen 6 cars.  These tires are being shredded particularly during long green laps.  NASCAR will need to consider a harder composition for these tires next season.
  • Joey Logano made significant strides in this race as he begun in back of the pack due to failing inspection.  The back of his car — and Brad Keselowski‘s — could mean charges imposed by NASCAR for the Penske Racing Fords. Despite all this red-tape drama, he finished an impressive fifth in the NRA 500.
  • Battery problems are new in this race.  Joey Logano had it beforehand, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had this issue during the race.
  • Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing are dominating the leaderboards. Despite the troubles that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had, he is ranked sixth in the overall standings to date.  Jimmie Johnson, his teammate, is hanging barely in the first position with Brad Keselowski nipping at his heels.
  • Jeff Gordon had a run of bad luck as he was taken out of the race due to chassis or tire problems with his car in the last laps of the race.
  • These Gen 6 cars — and some drivers like Danica Patrick — can’t handle these corners too well.  They are pushing the brakes a bit too hard around the corners, and it is damaging these cars at close to 200 mph.
  • The NRA sponsorship drama concerning this race was set aside.  It may be interesting how NASCAR as an organization responds to the politicians of Washington and some concerned citizens of Newtown.  I don’t believe the NRA will be pulled as a sponsor for this season or future seasons because it may pull the core of NASCAR viewers.  Besides, it does not have any direct impact on the NASCAR drivers, their cars or their pit crews.

Onto the next race at STP 400 at Kansas Speedway where again, there will be another fast race and perhaps faster tempers…

2013 STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway: 10 Things That Spun Our Wheels

Jimmie Johnson Wins the 2013 STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway

With Jimmie Johnson’s stellar finish at the 2013 STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway, there was lots of trading paint with some suffering more than others.  Amazingly, it was a relatively tame race, all things considering.

But here are 10 things that spun our wheels at Philly Fantasy Sports:

  • Pit problems showed its ugly head once again in this race.  Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin suffering the worst of it. 
  • Brian Vickers had a rough race.  His Toyota was decimated in so many ways yet he found a way to pull through 11th place.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a rough day as nothing went well with his car in this race.
  • Danica Patrick pulled into 12th for a rookie, and this is her first time in Martinsville.  Impressive.
  • Right-front tire problems resurfaced in this race.  The Goodyear tires can’t tolerate these higher speeds without breaking down.
  • Chrevolets and Fords dominated the top spots once again.
  • Jimmie Johnson didn’t play nice with his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  as Jimmie Johnson intentionally lapped him after Junior spun out.  Jimmie Johnson also dominated the race by leading 347 out of 500 laps.
  • Brad Keselowski had another impressive run as he placed sixth in this race at Martinsville Speedway and is currently second in points on the leaderboard.
  • Denny Hamlin was sidelined for this race due to injury. Mark Martin salvaged a 10th place win for him.
  • Joey Logano behaved himself in this race.  Although there was some trading paint during the race, nothing has been severe — as of yet.  I’m surprised Tony Stewart wasn’t gunning for him.

With a relatively calm race at Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR fans will have to wait to see if sparks ignite at the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway next week.  Perhaps Joey Logano will get his due…or Denny Hamlin’s replacement, the veteran Mark Martin, gets his.

2011 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway: Post-Race Analysis

With the Daytona International Speedway track repaved into three-wide, the frequent use of the two-car tandem and with Dale Earnhard Jr. relying on his backup car, and Junior starting in the back despite qualifying for the pole position,  this race should be one of the best NASCAR races of this season. Dale Earnhardt, “The Intimidator,” will be remembered on the third lap of this race in commemoration of his death a decade previous, and this driver has not been forgotten nor ever will be.  After all the drama, festivities and tailgating, it’s time to go racing, boys, and this was one heck of a race.

Now to the post-race analysis:

  • Regan Smith pushed Kurt Busch for Busch’s lead in the first lap of the Great American Race.
  • Michael Waltrip incidently pushed Kyle Busch, and Busch slid out in lap 5.  Fortunately, for him and the rest of the field, he didn’t collide with anyone else.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s spotter could have possibly caused a collision after J.J. Yeley’s car brought out the caution flag in lap 11.  Typical Junior drama and karma, and it began again as he pushed into the head of the pack.
  • Kevin Harvick blew an engine in lap 22 and officially out of the race.  Bad luck for him after 152 races without a blown motor.
  • Michael Waltrip again pushed into David Reutimann and caused a train wreck on lap 29 into a 17-car train wreck.  Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, all Hendrick Motosports cars, were brought into the garage for repair of heavy damage to their cars.  Not good news for these Hendrick drivers or for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he was without his teammates for a major portion of the race.
  • Robert Richardson, Jr. spun out into lap 47, and he officially got his ticket into the garage.
  • Brian Vickers out on lap 56, and his engine had officially stalled.  Barely into lap 60, nearly one-third of the field had disappeared.
  • Some cars returned in lap 92 that were involved in earlier wrecks. Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson were some of the notable drivers to make their return.
  • Kurt Busch led lap 92 with Regan Smith in their two-car tandem again.
  • And yet another Richard Childress engine blew with Jeff Burton in the garage on lap 94.  Childress Racing didn’t have much luck this race, as with Hendrick Motorsports.  However, theirs was an engineering problem which should be resolved by next week’s race and not created by the big one caused by Michael Waltrip.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya spun out in lap 107 with no disaster on the track.  The two-car tandems still remained the theme up to this point of the race.  Interestingly, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have paired together — for a short time only.
  • Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have paired up in lap 110.  This pairing should be beneficial to both of these veterans, but it was short-lived.
  • Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard tandem have maintained the lead for five laps since lap 127.  Matt Kenseth, who had fallen a  lap down, crashed into the outer wall in lap 134.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya spun out and collided with Greg Biffle on lap 143.  And now the 11th caution flag had been dropped.  This race hasn’t been without excitement.
  • Regan Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr. hook up in lap 147 and pushed Junior to the lead.  This is one potent combination since Regan Smith established himself in the lead pack after the big wreck of lap 29.
  • Travis Kavapil wrecked on lap 158 and brought out the 12th caution flag, a race record. The final push begun for the drivers and their respective pit crews.
  • Brad Keselowski crashed into the wall on lap 167, and the 13th yellow flag was brought out.
  • Kasey Kahne blew a tire out in lap 182, and Jamie McMurray had to resign himself  out of the race with an engine issue.  Now this race had its 14th yellow flag…
  • Soon enough, another caution flag…Regan Smith got turned by Kurt Busch caused by Tony Stewart on lap 196.
  • On lap 204, A.J. Allmendinger spun into Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman clipped Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and another caution flag. Junior was taken out of the race, as his karma followed again.

Trevor Bayne of Wood Brothers won the Daytona 500.  He had one of the faster cars on the field, but nobody expected this win in NASCAR or their fantasy cohorts.  Overall, a very entertaining race — with bookend wrecks, but the big one caused by Michael Waltrip changed the field early in lap 29.  The average speed of the Daytona 500 was 132 mp, with the top speed of 201 mph. Most of the cars raced from 170 to 200 mph.  Perhaps, like in the football season beforehand, this may be a season of surprises.  Certainly, NASCAR began with one. Now onto Phoenix…

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wrecks Car During Wednesday’s Practice and Loses Pole Position: Or Here Junior Nation Goes…Again

Dale Earnhardt Jr. who initially won the pole with his partner Jeff Gordon for the Dayton 500 this Sunday, but like Junior Nation and for long-time fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr.  has come to expect, something was bound to happen.  He wrecked while pushing Jimmie Johnson in the two-car tandem during yesterday’s practice for the Gatorade Duel today.  When Jimmie Johnson became loose as he slowed down to avoid the cars of Robby Gordon, David Gilliland and Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s qualifying car hit the inside of the retaining wall now he has to rely on his backup car.  Unfortunately, he will have to forfeit his pole position and resign himself to back to the pack for the Daytona 500.  This is classic Junior karma for the upcoming Great American Race.

Given the past racing history of Junior, this isn’t a bad spot altogether in light of these circumstances.  Even during his days before Tony Eury, Jr. or Steve Letarte, he always found a way to come from back of the pack into the top 10 or 15 usually.  Unfortunately, most of the time, he simply could not win the race either through his driving style, being involved in a crash or something else altogether prevented him from getting the checkered flag.

The change to Steve Letarte has benefited Dale Earnhardt Jr. already by giving him one of the faster cars, if not the fastest, in the upcoming race.  If he can somehow catch up with either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon by mid-race at least, Hendrick Motorsports could be leading some of the way for the Daytona 500.

The 2011 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway: Post-Race Analysis

This race is the appetizer before the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, next Sunday.  This also gives the Sprint Cup drivers and teams to adjust to the newly paved Daytona International Speedway from engines, drafting partners and fuel changes.  Lastly, it gives NASCAR fans a relatively brief race to watch although it will progress late through the night.

This race still doesn’t compare to the festivities and the drama surrounding the Daytona 500 next week. Now to the post-race analysis:

  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had the pole in the beginning but dropped again to 3rd.  It’s not as bad as some of actual Sprint Cup races where he fell  into the middle of the pack and could not recover beyond 15th or so.
  • Pairings of cars helps picks up speed, particularly against an aggressive pack of drivers behind you.
  • Jeff Burton got 1st place and Matt Kenseth got 4th on the first 25 laps of this race.  Both are X-factors when the season officially begins next week.
  • On lap 29 of the Shootout, Regan Smith initially collided with Carl Edwards.  Edwards then clipped Dale Earnhardt Jr. rear bumper and started a whole spillover including Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano and others.  I think this looks like the forecast for the Dayton 500.
  • Two-car drafting works most of the time, but when it doesn’t work, it causes severe wrecks.
  • Jimmie Johnson is still the man of the Sprint Cup Series.  He led the race at 3/4ths of the race at lap 50.
  • Jeff Gordon stuck around 5th or so in the early part of the second segment.  It appeared he was biding his time for his final move in the last few laps of the Shootout, but it didn’t come to fruition.

Kurt Busch won the Budweiser Shootout, partially from Denny Hamlin‘s drive through the boundary line for the lead.  The dual car tandems were the theme of this race, and the average speed of this race seemed to swing from 195 mph to 205 mph.

The Great American Race is on next Sunday, and it will be interesting to see how the adjustments made this week will affect the Daytona 500.

My Top 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers to Watch in 2011 Season: The Quick and Dirty Edition

This is my list of top 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to watch in 2011, given their current trends over the past three to five seasons.  This is not based on any current adjustments to their respective teams, engines, cars or other factors currently internally or externally, such as the new points systems.

Now to my top 10 list of NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers, in no particular order:

  • Jimmie Johnson (48) of  the Chad Knaus/Hendrick Motorsports Team.  He’s won five straight Sprint Cup championships and going for a sixth.
  • Tony Stewart (14) of the Darian Grubb/Stewart-Haas Racing Team. He’s been mostly consistent remaining in 7th through the 9th in standings the past three years.  He should do more of the same this season.
  • Clint Bowyer (33) of the Shane Wilson/Richard Childress Racing Team. His team has not been consistent, but he’s always found ways to remain in the Chase.  However, he has remained in the top 10 three out of five recent seasons.
  • Jeff Gordon (24) of the Steve Letarte/Hendrick Motorsports Team. He’s been minimally the top 10 the past five years, if not in the top 5.  He should do the same this season, as his team has always demonstrated success.
  • Carl Edwards (99) of the Bob Osborne/Roush Fenway Racing Team.  His team has either been in the top 3 or in the top 10 the past years, but he has demonstrated inconsistency.  If football or hockey are indication the changing nature of sports, his team might have a chance for a real push this season.
  • Denny Hamlin (11) of the Mike Ford/Joe Gibbs Racing Team. Since 2007, his team has been making real strides to becoming 2nd in the standings in 2010 again — like he was in 2006.  Whereas some of these teams have been simply inconsistent, this team has been consistently getting better.
  • Kyle Busch (18) of the Dave Rogers/Joe Gibbs Racing Team. He has always remained in the bottom rungs of the top 10 standings, but he has remained in the Chase for the past five years.  He could be another one to watch out for this upcoming season.

NASCAR‘s X-Factors

For the last three of my top 10, these drivers are always within reach of the top 10 over the past years, and this year, they may be troublesome to rest the field for their shadows always hanging within reach to make a serious mark upon the Sprint Cup Chase.

  • Jeff Burton (31) of the Todd Berrier/Richard Childress Racing Team.
  • Matt Kenseth (17) of the Jimmy Fennig/Roush Fenway Racing Team.
  • Kurt Busch (22) of the Steve Addington/Penske Racing Team. Although not quite as successful as his brother Kyle, he does stay within reach of the Chase.