Posts Tagged ‘the Chase’

NASCAR 2011 Year In Review

December 29, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. 36 points races and some non-points races for 2011 has come to an end. There were 18 different winners this year, five of them were first time winners.

The very first race, the Daytona 500, was quite a surprise. The drivers all raced two by two! They found out that they could go faster if they paired up, instead of driving in a big pack. This gave the fans many lead changes. However many fans liked the pack racing, rather than the couple racing. In any event, when it came down to the final restart, 6 David Ragan had been leading with 21 Trevor Bayne pushing.They found themselves side by side for the restart. The plan was for 6 to go down in front of 21 and continue onto the win. NASCAR has a rule that you may not change lanes on a restart until after you cross the Start/Finish Line. 6 moved over in front of 21 too soon and was Black Flagged and moved to the rear. This put Bayne, a Rookie, in the lead and he went on to win the Daytona 500! In only his third Cup start. He was driving for the Woods Brothers, who have been in NASCAR since almost forever. The Cinderella story of the year.

Next came the Subway Fresh Fit 500(K) race at Phoenix International Raceway. 24 Jeff Gordon won his first race of 2011 and his 83rd career win. Then on to Las Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 400, where Carl Edwards won his 19th career win. Next up was Bristol, Tn. for the Jeff Byrd 500 and Kyle Busch’s 20th win in Sprint Cup. At Auto Club Speedway and the Auto Club 500, Kevin Harvick managed to come up from behind to lead the last lap and win his 15th race. He followed that up with a win the following week at Martinsville in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500. In the Saturday night race at Texas, the Samsung Mobil 500, Matt Kenseth captured his first win of the season.

Next was another restrictor-plate race at Talladega, with the drivers pairing up once again in the Aaron’s 499 . The finish was wonderful with three drivers inches away from each other at the finish. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pushed Jimmie Johnson to the win on the bottom of the track while two other pairs raced for the win. Jr. finished fourth. In Richmond, Matthew and Daniel Hanson, Military people were honored in the 400 lap race, with Kyle Busch winning his second race of the year. Next up was the Southern 500 at Darlington. The Lady in Black was not too tough for Regan Smith to tame and he won his first Sprint Cup race.

Next up was Dover, the race I always attend, the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks where Matt Kenseth won his second race of the year. In Charlotte, for the longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600, Kevin Harvick won his third race, getting it done, once again, in the closing laps. The media dubbed him “the Closer”. On to Kansas, for the STP 400 where Brad fKeselowski wins his second career race and the first of 2011. Jeff Gordon wins his 84th career race at Pocono, tying him for third all time in wins with Bobby Allison and Darryl Waltrip in the -Hour Energy 500. Denny Hamlin wins his first race this year in Michigan in the Helluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 race after winning 8 last year, the most in 2010. Kurt Busch wins the road race at Infineon in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, his first win of the year.

Back to Daytona and “tandem racing, Matt Kenseth pushes David Ragan to the win, his first career Sprint Cup win. The inaugural race at Kentucky was much of a disaster, with many fans unable to get to the track for it’s first Cup race. Kentucky was host to Camping World Trucks and Nationwide races and Kyle Busch wins the Quaker State 400 with all his experience in the Minor Leagues, his third win. Then onto New Hampshire for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 where Ryan Newman wins from starting on the pole. Paul Menard wins his first Cup race at Indianapolis in the Brickyard 400. Back to Pocono, Brad Keselowski breaks his ankle while testing at Road America and wins the Good Sam’s RV Insurance 500! On to Watkins Glen, Marcos Ambrose wins the road course race, his first Sprint Cup win. Back to Michigan and the Pure Michigan 400, Kyle Busch wins his fourth of the year.

In the Irwin Tools Night Race 500 at Bristol, Brad wins again with his broken ankle, making him in contention for the Wild Card to get into the chase. In Atlanta, Jeff Gordon wins the Advo Care 500, giving him third place overall in wins by himself. Back to Richmond for the final race to set the chase, Kevin Harvick wins his fourth race in the Wonderful Pistachios 400. This puts him tied with Kyle Busch in first place heading into the chase.

Tony Stewart, winless in the regular season, wins the first two races in the chase, the Geico 400 in Chicago, the new addition to the chase, and the Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire. Kurt Busch wins the AAA 400 at Dover. Kansas gets a second race this year and Jimmie Johnson wins only his second race of the year in the Hollywood Casino 400. Matt Kenseth wins the Bank Of America 500 at Charlotte, the only night race in the chase. More couples racing at Talladega in the Good Sam’s Club 500, with Clint Bowyer pushing Jeff Burton and then leaving him to win the race. Tony Stewart wins the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, rain shortened. He backed up the win with another win in the AAA Texas 500, his fourth win in the chase. Kasey Kahne finally gets a win while racing for Red Bull before going to Hendrick in 2012, the Kobalt Tools 500(K) in Phoenix. As they head to the final race in Homestead-Miami, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are tied for the lead in points. Tony wins the Ford 400 after many times being forced to the rear. The two end up tied in points with Carl finishing second and Tony wins the championship with his five chase wins. He won five out of ten races!

While Tony was busy winning in the chase, the Busch brothers were busy having meltdowns. Kyle, thinking he should be the only Truck driver allowed to win in the Camping World Truck Series, ran championship contender, Ron Hornaday, up the track and into the wall during the caution where Ron got loose and got into Kyle. The both could have gone to pit road for repairs and both could have been in contention by the end of the race to win, but Kyle decided payback was the answer. He was parked for the rest of that race and the Nationwide and Cup races at Texas. It is my opinion that he always melts down by the end of the year, but this was worse than most years. Meanwhile, his brother Kurt was annoyed at everyone and everything in the final race in Homestead after transmission trouble early in the race, gave the finger to the car that held the First Lady and swore at the media while they were attempting to interview him. Kurt was fired. Kyle sat out the races in Texas and M&M’s pulled their sponsorship for the last two races. I have heard the NFL players have meltdowns as well. Read more here.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR racing.

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NASCAR Race Review: Tums Fast Relief 500

November 1, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was at the Martinsville Speedway, the paper clip, on Sunday for the Tums Fast Relief 500 race, the thirty-third race of the Season and the seventh race in the chase. Mother Nature was not cooperative on Friday, raining on the track so that there was no practice. She wasn’t much better on Saturday, canceling Coors Light Pole Qualifying, to give the Sprint Cup drivers some practice. The field was set by the rule book, owner points. This put the chasers all up front. It worked out well for the points leaders, 99 Carl Edwards and 17 Matt Kenseth, as they will be starting the race on the front row.

Martinsville Speedway is the smallest track on the circuit, as well as the oldest. The corners are concrete, while the straightaways are asphalt. They can’t drive in the rear of the field for this race, like they did at Talladega Superspeedway. If they do, they will quickly be lapped.

So, here we go! 99 Edwards chooses the inside and races side by side with 17 for the lead. 17 leads the first lap, they still race side by side and 99 takes the lead. 17 and 14 Tony Stewart race for second with 14 knocking 17 into the wall. 14 finally takes second from 17. The first caution comes out on lap 8. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hops the curb into 22 Kurt Busch and everyone behind them get into it. Not much damage for anyone, but a big mess. 37 Mike Skinner leaves fluid on the track so there is a lot of clean up. 24 Jeff Gordon makes many stops to pound out the fenders. 88 came in before pit road is open and will have to restart in the rear.

They restart on Lap 21 with 99 and 14 racing for the lead. 99 leads. 18 Kyle Busch drives under 2 Brad Keselowski and 2 gets stuck on top. 48 Jimmie Johnson gets by and 2 pulls in behind. 39 Ryan Newman and 29 Kevin Harvick race side by side. 43 A. J. Allmendinger almost  makes it three wide. 18 gets by 17 Matt Kenseth and 2 drives under 17.

The second caution comes out for spinning 78 Regan Smith. 36 Dave Blaney and 1 Jamie McMurray were racing together when 20 Joey Logano turns 36. 78 and 83 Brian Vickers spin together avoiding the mess. 24 is overheating. Since there was rain this weekend, there will be a competition caution on lap 35. NASCAR is using this caution as the competition caution. The teams are able to refuel. 29 nearly gets into 16 Greg Biffle on his way out.

14 stays out to lead. 18 and 14 race for the lead side by side and 14 stays in the lead. 88 and 99 race for position and 88 gets by. 14 and 18 race for the lead and this time 18 takes the lead. 14 lets him go. 2 is stuck on top and many get by him. 11 Denny Hamlin and 22 race side by side for sixth. 43 and 14 battle for second.

The third caution for spinning 83. (83 ended up facing the wrong way in all three cautions.) 83 and 42 were racing and 42 Juan Pablo Montoya spins 83. 24 makes his seventh pit stop. Five drivers have not made a pit stop. 78 Regan Smith gets his lap back and drives around all the cars.

18 and 43 race for the lead and 18 stays in the lead. 17 gets high on the track and 29 gets by. 43 takes the lead. 18 and 11 race for second and 11 takes the spot. 99 nudges 88 and then gets by 17. 11 Hamlin takes the lead, sliding in front of 43. (Denny was singing “It’s just a matter of time” while catching 43.)

The fourth caution comes out during the commercial. 9 Marcos Ambrose spins 00 David Reutimann and there is a lot of smoke. 39 stays out to lead and takes off. 88 and 6 David Ragan race for second and 88 nudges 6 to get by. 6 comes back to try again. 48 drives under 2. 2 didn’t make a pit stop and many get by. 42 drives by 6 for third. 22 and 24 race side by side and 24 finally gets by. 1 drives under 22. 43 races 22 and 43 gets by 31 Jeff Burton and 18 race side by side with 31 on top. 18 and others get by.

The fifth caution comes out during the commercial. 83 spins 1. When 83 comes by again, 1 tries to spin 83 but puts himself into the wall and the battery drops out! On the restart 42, in second doesn’t get going, 4 Kasey Kahne gets into 47 Bobby Labonte and 47 gets turned around. He gets going and there is no caution. 33 Clint Bowyer makes it three wide under 47 to get by. 43 moves to second. 42 and 9 race for third.

The sixth caution comes out when 42 spins 9. 47 Bobby Labonte gets back onto the lead lap. 39 gives up the lead to pit, while others stay out. 43 and 42 restart in front. 43 leads, while 42 gets hung up on the outside. He squeezes in front of 11. 99 and 48 race for eighth. 18 drives under 29 for second. 16 drives under 29 for third. 27 Paul Menard moves up into 88 to get by. 18 takes the lead. 16 gets by 43 for second. 48 slides under 16. 22 gets by 14 for twelfth.

The seventh caution comes out when 88 spins 20. 78 Regan Smith gets back onto the lead lap. 39 and 18 come out of the pits first and 39 takes off. 18 drives under 39 to take the lead. 17 and 48 race for fourth and 48 gets by. 48 drives under 39 for third and then under 11 for second. 24 drives under 16 for fifth. 43 follows 24 by 16.

The eighth caution comes out when 71 Landon Cassill turns 47, who does a slow slide next to 18. 18 and 48 race for the lead and 18 stays in the lead. 88 drives under 43. 29 gets by 31 and then drives under 16 for sixth. 16 races 31 with 88 right behind for sixth. 31 gets by. 24 drives under 11 for third. 24 gets by 48 for second and is catching the leader 18. 24 drives under 18 to take the lead. 11 drives under 48 for second. 24 is about to lap 99, the points leader heading into the race.

The ninth caution comes out when 5 Mark Martin gets onto the curb and gets sideways all by himself. 99 Carl Edwards gets his lap back. 2 drives under 29 for sixth. 43 drives under 88. 11 and 18 race for third and 11 gets by. 11 drives under 48 for second and is catching leader 24. 11 takes the lead. (33 has a boot cam and they show his feet for many laps.) 29 gets by 88 and 20. 88 moves 20 aside to get by. 17 drives under 18. 14 races the leader 11 to stay on the lead lap.

The tenth caution comes out during the commercial. ESPN has side by side coverage during the commercials, but they don’t stop the commercials to show the viewers the caution. 34 David Gilliland blows a tire and gets into the wall. 14 stays on the lead lap. 11 and 48 restart up front and 11 leads. 24 and 48 race for second and 24 gets by. 11 and 24 race for the lead and 24 takes the lead. 18 drives under 48 for third. 48 drives under 18 to take third back. 17 gets around 42.

The eleventh caution comes out when 22 turns 31 into the wall. 33 Clint Bowyer gets his lap back. 29 leads and takes off. 71 gets into the wall and it takes awhile for them to throw the twelfth caution 99 Carl Edwards is again the Lucky Dog recipient. 29 and 14 race for the lead. 42 gets into 88. 16 spins out, bringing out the thirteenth caution. 14 thinks a tire may be going down after contact with 29 and makes a pit stop.

29 leads with 81 Laps to go. 16 comes back onto the track and is in the way. 27 and 22 race side by side, they touch and 27 spins 22, bringing out the fourteenth caution. 5 Mark Martin gets back onto the lead lap. 29 and 24 restart on the front row and 29 takes off. Now here it gets confusing. 99 passed several cars before the Line. He should have had to make a pass through into the pits, but NASCAR reviewed it and decided he had been told to restart ahead of 31, so he was just getting into position. He passed another car and gave that position back, so he didn’t get penalized. My question is, if he was not in position, why did they throw the Green Flag? (He is the points leader and maybe NASCAR is making an exception in this case?)

29 and 48 race for the lead and 48 takes the lead. 11 gets by 29 for second. 18 gets by 29. 2 and 29 race for fifth and 2 takes the position. 88 gets by 17. 43 gets into the wall. 17 and 83 race for eighth, 17 drives under 83 and moves him aside,bringing out the fifteenth caution. 48 stays out, the rest of the leaders make a pit stop. 00 and 31 also stay out. 88 is out of the pits first. 17 gets hit in the pits.

The sixteenth caution comes out when 17 has a tire going down and collects 42 and 18. 18 pits for damage. They work on the right side while the tire changer loosens the left front tire. The Pace car is coming, so they let the jack down and he gets out of the pits. Only the left tire is not secure and the tire comes off on the track. He heads back to the pits with no wheel! 17 goes behind the wall for repairs.

48 and 31 lead the way at the restart with 27 laps to go. 48 pulls ahead and 14 drives under 31 for second. The seventeenth caution comes out when 22 gets sideways into 39, sending him spinning. 16 Greg Biffle gets back onto the lead lap. They restart with twenty-two laps to go. 14 and 31 race for second. 31 finally clears. The hood of 42 flies off, onto the windshield! He heads for the pits. 2 and 11 race for seventh and 2 gets the spot. 24 gets by 88. 99 runs 00 out of his way. 11 finally gets by 2. 29 gets by 88. 14 gets by 31 and so does 24. 71 Hermie Sadler gets by 18, both seven laps down.

The eighteenth caution comes out for 83 again. The car is all mashed up and he tried to take 17 out as a pay back. The Green Flag flies with three laps to go. 14 takes the lead with two laps to go. 88 and 11 get together, spinning 2. 48 is right on 14 on the last lap. 14 Tony Stewart wins the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway with Johnson right behind. Jeff Gordon finished third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman for the top ten. There were twelve different leaders, with Kyle Busch leading the most.

Carl Edwards keeps the points lead, this time over Tony Stewart, by eight points. Stewart moved up two spots with this win, his third in this chase. Kevin Harvick also moved up two spots, into third, while Brad Keselowski falls a spot to fourth and Matt Kenseth drops three spots to fifth. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch trade sixth and seventh, followed by Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman to make up the chase.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR racing.

 

 

NASCAR Fan Commentary

October 26, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. Racing this weekend is at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. They go from the biggest track to the smallest. In the wake of biggest track and the tandem racing that was there, I’d like to take time out for a fan comment.

I love watching racing. Let me make that clear. I love watching them go fast around the track and race side by side for laps before one of them gets by. You see some great racing in some of the feeder series. These guys are learning how to race and don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to bump another car out of the way to get by. They just race each other to get by. That is what I call racing.

That’s what I loved about the Sport right from the beginning. The racing. Lately, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is not racing, but instead, chasing. The only way to get into the top ten in points, is to be there by the race in Richmond that sets the chase with ten races to go. I have a problem with that. It used to be that the driver who wins the Championship had to be the best driver all year with the most top fives and top tens. Winning races has always provided more points to the drivers, but being the most consistent driver all season got you more points than driving like an idiot and taking yourself out.

Matt Kenseth won the 2003 Championship by being the most consistent driver all year. Despite the fact that he only had one win all year. But he was right there every single race. Brian France decided more effort should be forced on the drivers to win races, instead of just collecting points. But instead of giving more points to the winners, he decided on the chase. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these drivers racing to win every race anyway? Ask any of them and they’ll tell you that they try for the best finish they can get. The points will take care of themselves.

Somehow, the chase is supposed to make the last ten races more exciting. The chase is NASCAR’s version of a playoff. Everyone watches Football because there is a playoff at the end of the year, right? Wrong. There is a playoff at the end of the year because, like all stick and ball Sports, there are divisions and Leagues. The playoffs determine the best team in each League and they play each other to determine the one best team. In NASCAR there are no divisions or leagues. There are 43 drivers out there every week racing for the win. And there are still 43 drivers out there the last ten races, going for the win. Only with the chase, only one of twelve drivers will be allowed to win the championship. Now, isn’t that how it always was? The chase gives the tenth place driver a better chance to win the title. But why should the  tenth place team be getting a better chance to win the title? Shouldn’t the best driver all year be the champion? Instead of the driver who had a great ten races in the end? This fan thinks so.

This year NASCAR changed the points system. If you finish last, you get one point. You get one point for leading a lap and one more point for leading the most laps. And three points for winning. The change is supposed to be great for the fans because they can see who is getting more points by where they are on the track. As a fan, I don’t care what the points look like during the race. It always bugs me when the announcers say “if the race were to end now” and show what the points look like. Who cares what the points are as they race? Certainly not the fans. It doesn’t matter until the race is over. It doesn’t make the race more exciting, knowing your favorite driver is leading the points in the middle of the race. NASCAR is racing and anything can happen.

My wish is that NASCAR listens to the long time fans and give us back racing, instead of chasing. Kurt Busch was the first chase champion. He didn’t have the most wins all year. He was just a tenth place driver who missed getting into the top ten the year before in the last race. Great for all those Kurt fans, but not great for the points leader all year. With that win, fans stopped watching the last ten races. Well, I can’t say stopped. I still watch. But a lot of long time fans sure did. The last ten races may be exciting races, but who wants to watch just twelve drivers in those ten races? Not the fans of those thirty other drivers. At least without the chase, you got to watch the points leader defend his points. And you got to watch drivers race into or out of the top ten.

Tomorrow I will give you my take on Talladega Superspeedway and the racing going on there lately.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR racing.

NASCAR Race Review: Wonderful Pistachios 400

September 11, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced the Wonderful Pistachios 400 race at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night, the final race to set the chase. The media had all these wonderful scenarios of what could happen and who could get into the chase and who could fall out and what each driver had to do to get in or stay in. Richmond is a .75 mile short track with more room to race than other short tracks. They called for a lot of beating and banging to pass, but I have to wonder what ever happened to racing? Chasing is the new NASCAR. And “Boys have at it” is the new theme. Personally, I don’t care for follow the pace car racing because the drivers get into one another instead of racing each other.

00 David Reutimann captured the Pole with a speed of 127.382 mph and 21.196 seconds around the track. 1 Jamie McMurray starts next to him on the front row. I don’t expect the announcers to follow these two, as they are not in contention to get into the chase. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and 14 Tony Stewart are in the top ten in points and will have to, well, race to stay there. 2 Brad Keselowski has clinched a wild card spot but will not get his bonus points for his three wins unless he makes it into the top ten in points. 11 Denny Hamlin will have to race to keep his wild card position. Well, this IS a race, isn’t it? Each driver will have to race for position and the win, no? Somehow chasing is more exciting than racing, at least for the media. Anyway.

Mike Skinner, Erik Darnell and T. J. Bell failed to qualify for the race. Denny Hamlin has won the last two fall races here in Richmond. I’m sure  he will be trying for a third in a row. Since the race falls on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, many cars have American Flags on their cars. NASCAR is very Patriotic.

So, here we go! 1 McMurray leads the first lap, where the first caution comes out. 32 Mike Bliss turns 71 Andy Lally. They go to a commercial and come back after the restart. 00 and 33 Clint Bowyer get together and spin, but the second caution doesn’t come out until several cars get into them and each other because these two were on the track, going nowhere. On laps nine, ten and eleven, there is a moment of silence and the announcers don’t show what happened until the twelfth lap. 88 got into 17 Matt Kenseth when 17 slowed for cars on the track. 11 has damage. 56 Martin Truex, Jr. got into 13 Casey Mears. 7 Robby Gordon is stuck at the entrance of pit road, so pit road is closed while some drivers come in for repairs. (All that crashing sure was exciting! Not.)

48 Jimmie Johnson leads at the restart. 22 Kurt Busch is loose and loosing spots. The third caution comes out when 4 Kasey Kahne spins out. 34 David Gilliland  gets his lap back. 48 leads. 29 Kevin Harvick gets  by 1 for second 56 limps to the pits. There is three wide racing and 9 Marcos Ambrose gets caught in the middle, bringing out the fourth caution. 88 bumps 9 when 9 lifts to avoid 6 David Ragan. 11 Denny Hamlin gets his lap back.

31 Jeff Burton and 43 A. J. Allmendinger race side by side. 39 Ryan Newman, 24 Jeff Gordon and 33 race together. 33 gets by 39 and 24. (33 is racing a damaged car.) 83 Brian Vickers and 4 race side by side with 9 on the outside, forcing 83 and 4 to get together, bringing out the fifth caution. Under caution, 83 runs into 9 and NASCAR sends 83 to the garage until they decide to let him out!

99 Carl Edwards takes two tires and comes out of the pits first, but 22 and 17 stay out to lead. 17 and 22 race side by side for the lead. 2 and 6 race each other. 18 Kyle Busch has a loose wheel and makes a pit stop. 33 drives under 2. 17 and 29 battle for the lead and 29 takes the lead. 6 and 22 race side by side and 6 drives under 22 to get by. 43 and 00 race side by side. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya gets by 99 for second. 31 and 22 race each other with 39 right behind.

The sixth caution comes out when 32 blows a tire and gets into the wall. (One thing I have to say, ABC did not have the ticker at the top so we could see who is where during the race. Instead they showed us where 14 and 88 were in points as they raced.) 48 and 99 race for position. 1 and 43 race each other. 99 drives under 33 for third. They let 83 back onto the track. 31 and 1 race each other and 1 gets by. 18 gets by 17. 11 and 17 race with 2 right behind. 11 gets by 17.

38 Travis Kvapil bumps 88 and 88 turns 38 into the wall, bringing out the seventh caution. There is no Lucky Dog, as 88 was next in line and was involved in the caution. 16 Greg Biffle leads. The eighth caution comes out when 51 Landon Cassill spins by himself. 99, 29 and 16 battle for the lead and 29 takes the lead by driving through the middle. 78 Regan Smith slides up the track and 27 Paul Menard gets into the wall, bringing out the ninth caution. 17 has damage. 9 Marcos Ambrose gets back onto the lead lap.

At the restart, 29 and 99 battle for the lead and 29 keeps the lead. 48 and 22 battle for fourth. 22 spins 48, bringing out the tenth caution. 29 chooses the bottom and leads 99. 39 and 24 race for position and 39 gets by. 6 drives under 24. 2 drives under 24. 99 takes the lead during the commercial and ABC football action coming up. 99 drove under 29 for the lead. 2 and 22 battle for third and 2 gets by. 2 races with 29 for second and 29 stays in second. 2 has four fresh tires and gets by 29. 22 and 29 race for third and 22 gets the spot. 16 and 29 race for fourth. 33 starts Green Flag Pitting.

48 comes onto 22 and tries to spin him out, but only succedes in spinning himself out, along with 99 and 2. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gets the free pass onto the lead lap. 11 and 36 Stephen Leicht race for position and 11 gets by. The twelfth caution comes out during the commercial. 31 gets a flat tire and backs into the wall. 99, 16 and 2 race for position and 99 clears 16. (1 Jamie McMurray was the Lucky Dog.) 11 and 18 battle for position.

The thirteenth caution comes out when 35 Dave Blaney and 9 get together and 9 spins. 20 Joey Logano is up in smoke and heads for the garage. 24, in tenth, makes a pit stop while the top nine stay out. 43 A. J. Allmendinger gets his lap back. They go Green with 99 laps to go and 99 leading. 51 spins and drives through the grass. No caution comes out. 16 and 22 race for second with 29 right behind.

The fourteenth caution comes out when 00 spins into the wall. 33 got loose into 00. 9 Marcos Ambrose again gets back onto the lead lap. 99 stays out, along with 17 and 36. 36 is getting in the way. 29 takes  the lead. 17 and 11 get together, giving 17 a tire rub. 24 gets by 99 for second. 24 catches the leader, 29 in traffic. 29 and 24 battle for the lead. 29 slips and 24 takes the lead. 18 battles with 99.

The fifteenth caution comes out for 27 Paul Menard. For the restart, the top five are 29, 24, 99, 18 and 6. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the Lucky Dog for the third time. 29 leads. 99 and 24 battle for second and 99 takes the position. 24 races with 18 for third and 18 gets by. 24 tries again and gets back by 18. 6 and 22 get by 18.

With only a few laps to go, 99 is catching 29 for the lead, but there is not enough time for him to battle for the lead. And 29 Kevin Harvick wins the Wonderful Pistachios 400, his fourth win this year. Carl Edwards finishes second, followed by Jeff Gordon, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin for the top ten. So. The chase is now set, with Kyle Busch, having more second place finishes than Kevin Harvick and leads the points. Both have four wins and 2012 points. Jeff Gordon is third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the wild cards for the top twelve.

This year the chase starts at Chicagoland Speedway, not New Hampshire Motor Speedway like it has been. Kenny Wallace said the chase and wild cards is what the fans wanted. But I have to differ. We did not want the chase at all. We liked the Champion being the best driver after 36 races, not the best in ten races. Ratings have shown fans are not watching the last ten races, since the Season was shortened to 26 races. With 43 drivers still racing every week during this chase, who wants to watch only twelve drivers? No one goes home for the chase. They keep on trying to win, even during the chase.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR racing. Although I’m not crazy about chasing.

NASCAR Fan Commentary: The Chase

April 7, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. First let me tell you I fell in love with NASCAR in 1996 when I saw my first NASCAR race. I thought racing was the most beautiful thing in the world. I made it a point to learn everything about it. I know who the champions were starting with 1995. I know who is in what car each year. People who have been watching longer than me come to me for information. NASCAR has become my Passion. That is, until recently. Don’t get me wrong. I still love racing and watch everything I can watch. It’s just that the emphasis is no longer on racing, but who will make it into the chase, starting with the Season opener in Daytona. Now maybe this gives the media something to talk about, but I would prefer they talk about racing instead of chasing. So, let’s look at the stats.

The Chase for the Nextel (now Sprint) Cup started after the 2003 season when Matt Kenseth won the Championship while winning only one race. The theory was that he was points racing instead of racing for the win. However, the season is 36 races long. One driver can’t win them all. Each driver will have to settle for the best they can do in that race.

The Chase was also invented so that the points would be closer at the end of the season, thus coming to the final race with drivers still having a chance to win the Trophy. So now they race for 26 races to get into the chase and then the points are reset so those in the chase can start over and win, even if they are in tenth place when they reset. And I have to ask, why would it be more important to crown a champion based on ten races, rather than on all 36 races? Is the Champion now winning the most races? Let’s have a look.

2004 was the first year of the chase. Kurt Busch won the championship with three wins that year and started the chase in ninth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had six wins that year. Jeff Gordon had five wins. Jimmie Johnson had eight wins. So a ninth place team won the Championship without winning the most races. (By the way, viewers watched this new chase system in 2004, but many did not return in 2005. With less and less returning as the chase continued.)

2005 saw Tony Stewart winning. He was the points leader entering the chase and ended the season with five wins. He would have won without the chase. However, Greg Biffle had the most wins with six. (So far the chase isn’t doing what it was supposed to do. Many fans do not even watch the last ten races.)

In 2006 Jimmie Johnson figured out how to do his best in those last ten races and won with five wins. Kevin Harvick also had five wins, as did Tony Stewart. Kasey Kahne had six wins. So, once again the driver with the most wins failed to win the championship.

In 2007 Johnson had a stellar year with ten wins. He would have won without the chase. Carl Edwards was the closest winner with three wins. In 2008 Johnson won again, but had only seven wins to Kyle Busch’s eight and Edwards’ nine wins. Was Johnson the best all year, or only in the last ten races? He tied Cale Yarborough by being the only other driver to win three championships in a row. But could he have done it without the chase? No way.

In 2009 Johnson had seven wins to Mark Martin’s five and deserved to  win his fourth in a row. But it would not have been four in a row.

After 2009 my Official NASCAR Preview and Press Guide was no longer published (And I have to ask why). So I had to get my information some place else. Last year, 2010, the chase came down to Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Harvick. This time the points were close with the three of them still in contention the last race. However, Hamlin had eight wins to Johnson’s seven. And Harvick collected the most points of anyone at the end of the year and finished the season in third.

Is the chase doing what it set out to do? Or is it just another way for the media to furnish hype  to get that 18-34 age group to watch? In my opinion it may be getting the casual fan or new fan to watch but it is “Chasing” away the fans it once had. All the media talks about is who will make it into the chase, even after the Daytona 500!

Brian France’s reasoning was that other Sports have a play-off and that is why fans watch those sports. Because there will be a playoff. And the best team out there will not necessarily win the championship. But. With other Sports, a playoff is needed to decide the champion. There are Divisions within Leagues. The divisions find their best Team in their League and those Teams win their League Championship and go on to decide which League is the best.

With NASCAR, there are 43 teams (cars, drivers and crew members) racing each other every time. So a playoff makes no sense. That is what the points do. It used to be the driver who was most consistent throughout the whole season had the most points, won the Championship. With the chase the points are reset and the driver who performs the best in these last ten races is the Champion. Should the emphasis be on racing to get into the chase or racing to win races and do the best one can with the equipment one is given?

Jimmie Johnson has won five chases in a row. He is the best “chaser” out there. While that is quite an accomplishment (and I  am liking him more and more all the time) you really can’t compare what he is doing to any past champions. He doesn’t have to lead the points all year, just be the best in the last ten races.

In the case of Matt Kenseth winning with only one win, he had a wonderful year. If you were to pick a driver each race all year, in 2003 Matt was the driver to pick. He may have only won one race, but he was the best driver all year and deserved to win the Championship. The same goes for any past Champion. They were all the best driver all year, not just in the last ten races. And while I love watching Johnson race, he is not the best driver all year. Kevin Harvick should have won last year. He was there at the front through most of the races. He collected the most points of anyone all year. But Johnson won his fifth in a row. And I have to ask how many in a row it will take and how many fans NASCAR will lose as a result, before they dump the chase and go back to having the best driver all year win the Championship.

The last ten races last year were great. Racing was wonderful. But the stands weren’t full. And ratings were down. If the idea of a playoff is working, why are so few watching? Like I said, I love NASCAR. I love watching racing. These days it is more about entertainment (a la WWE) than about actual racing. More about crashing than about racing. More about who will make it into the chase and win than about racing.

This NASCAR race fan will watch NASCAR racing. Even with the chase. However, NASCAR should look at the fans they once had and what they liked instead of looking to find new fans to replace them. The long time fans bring in more new fans. The chase brings in new fans at the expense of the long time fans.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. But as fans we are treated to the Barrett-Jackson Auction all day until 5 ET, when we get to watch practice. (Are the drivers waiting to get onto the track until after the auction?) Looks like the media has it’s own agenda, not what the fans want. Just my opinion.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR. Despite the chase.