Cup Stuff Blog

Ruminating All Things NASCAR

Archive for September, 2008

Biffle Wins At Dover

Posted by Keith Murray on September 24, 2008

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New Chase Format Claims Another Would-be Champion

Posted by Keith Murray on September 24, 2008

All we have heard from the pundits leading up to the Chase was that Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have this thing locked up and are the favorites to take it down. All along I have dissented and spoken my disagreement with that mentality. Love it or hate it, the new Chase format is here to stay (which means nothing in this sport – just ask Nextel, errrr, I mean Sprint) and having success or even domination over the first 26 races means little to nothing. Don’t believe me? Just ask Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.

Both of those guys had outstanding numbers going into the Chase  РGordon last year, and Busch this year. I have also been hearing people that are complaining about the new format and how it does not reward consistency over the long haul. Well, the fact of the matter is that every driver in the garage knows what the rules are and how the format works, and every one of them have the same opportunity to flourish or to crash and burn.

Busch has had some really bad luck the last couple of weeks, and that is exactly why the regular season is inconsequential once we leave Richmond and head to Loudon each year. If you peak too early in the season as Busch and – in my humble opinion – Carl Edwards did this year, you can be hung out to dry in the Chase format. Yes, Edwards is leading the points, and he could continue to run strong, but he is coming up on some tracks that have not historically been good for him, and although it could happen, to maintain that momentum much longer is unlikely, but it would be impressive.

Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson are the two drivers that have come on strong and gotten momentum at the right time. They have used the regular season to hone their programs and get things ready to roll, and have both taken off and had success the last 4-5 races. Both of those guys have some tracks coming up that they run well at, as does Edwards, so the title is still up in the air. I also think that you should keep an eye on Kecin Harvick. He has been quietly amassing consecutive good runs and could turn it up a notch and steal this thing before it is over. But Biffle has two consecutive wins in the Chase format, and the last two times that has happened in the Chase, the driver to do that – Jimmie Johnson – went on to win the championship both times.

Two races into the Chase, it is still up for grabs. Unless Denny Hamlin or Busch can pull a Jimmie Johnson ala 2007 and string together three or four wins, you can count them out this year. Early season success is no longer the determining factor for our sport’s championship. But Biffle and Johnson have timed it right and turned up the heat at the perfect time and they both have a strong chance to run away with the title. I predict that when we get to Homestead, it will be a two man race between those two, with a possible third contender being Kevin Harvick. In any case, it is going to be exciting coming up to the end of the season and hopefully be a close race to the Chase like the last few laps at Dover were. That was some great racing.

Please remember to pray for our troops and for our country’s future during this election cycle. Thanks for reading and God bless each of you!

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Championship Not a Done Deal For Busch

Posted by Keith Murray on September 15, 2008

For those of you that have been saying that this championship is in the bag for Kyle because of his domination early in the season, this is where I insert my big “I told ya so.” I have been screaming from the rooftops that the first 26 races will not determine a champion in NASCAR. For anyone that thinks it does and was screaming the accolades of one former Hendrick driver, you should learn from history. And you don’t even have to look that far. Just look at last year.

Jeff Gordon scored a record 30 top ten finishes last year. That is amazing. Yet, he still lost the championship because of the new format. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have shown that they understand and can win in the new format. They lost a couple of close championship fights  in 2004 and 2005 and came back to win it alll back to back. And now they are firmly on the their way to a three-peat.

But you Johnson fans better not ignore the talent and grit of Carl Edwards. He is very talented and has had the momentum train rolling a few weeks longer than the 48 team has. They are very capable of winning this thing. In my opinion, it is going to be one of those two unless someone pulls off something drastic, i.e. Jimmie Johnson of 2007.

Forget about the first 26 races – they are totally irrelevant now. The two hot teams that have to be stopped are the 99 and the 48. For the other teams out there, the task ahead is daunting. It’s not impossible, but to do it, someone is going to have to pull a Jimmie Johnson against Jimmie Johnson and rattle off 3 to 4 wins to knock the 99 or 48 out of contention. And both of those guys run strong at the Monster Mile. This thing is just getting heated up!

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More Thoughts On Richmond Race Running During Daytime

Posted by Keith Murray on September 6, 2008

I mentioned before that NASCAR could have put the Cup race at night and the Nationwide race during the day, but I want to follow up on some commentary I heard on ESPN’s NASCAR Now and Sportcenter this morning.

I appreciate the fact that NASCAR was thinking about everyone’s safety when they called off the races on Friday and Saturday and rescheduled them. There were a lot of factors including the threat of dangerous weather including tornados from the storm, as well as debris such as trees and power lines, and the fact that emergency personnel would be needed for more pressing things than traffic and crowd control. It was the right move to reschedule the races. My problem is with their thinking on the timing of the races.

I heard someone say that they drivers that will also be driving in the Nationwide race would have to endure running the Cup race after the Nationwide race. My first reaction to that is that they should determine which is more important to them – driving in the Cup race or the Nationwide race. I could write articles for the next several months talking about how the formerly-named Buschwhackers should not be running in that series so much as it is. I certainly hope that was not the reasoning for NASCAR flip-flopping the schedule to give the nighttime segment to the lesser series, but I would not put it past them with their seemingly never-ending backwards thinking in Daytona. I also heard someone say that there may be testing or appearances going on Monday that the teams and drivers need to tend to. Oh. Well, excuse me for thinking that putting on the best possible show for the fans should be the priority.

The fans have shown time after time that we love the night racing better than daytime; especially at short tracks like Bristol and Richmond. I would imagine that we will also have to endure a competition yellow since the crews have set the cars up to run under the lights and not during the heat of the day. So once again we fans have to put up with more asinine decisions from Brian and Co. that are designed for convenience sakes for everyone except the ones that we are told matter most – we the fans. Again, thanks for considering safety in rescheduling the events, but once again, you guys have dropped the ball in the aftermath of that decision. We want night racing and we want it now!

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Great Interview with Dale Earnhardt , Sr

Posted by Keith Murray on September 6, 2008

In this interview from 2000 just months before his death, Dale talked about the death of two drivers and also the growth of the sport. He also talked about his soon coming retirement that never happened. Still the man!

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No Night Race At Richmond

Posted by Keith Murray on September 6, 2008

Well, I can hear the resounding “BOOOOOOOO” from around the country because of NASCAR running the Richmond night race during the day. Come on, guys. You’re gonna run the Cup race during the day and the Nationwide race at night??? Were you well hidden when you smoked that crack?? What a joke. The last race to set the Chase lineup and you move it from the excitement of Richmond under the lights to just another Sunday afternoon race. Please stop with the bad jokes you keep playing on the fans…

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David Stremme Is Right Choice For Penske, But So What?

Posted by Keith Murray on September 5, 2008

About this time last year, David Stremme learned that he was being bumped from the 40 car in favor of another driver; one who was a part of the open-wheel invasion of NASCAR. Stremme went on to finish the year 24th in the points. One would think that it would be bittersweet for him to see the struggles of that team with Dario Franchitti behind the wheel. On the one hand, that team never made it into the top 30 this year with Franchitti behind the wheel, and struggled from the time he left until the team shut down operations earlier this year. That’ll show them. On the other hand, whether that team made it or not, he was still without a ride at the top level of motorsports.

Fortunately for him, Stremme had a good ride this year in the Nationwide Series and has shown some stability and promise with several good finishes this year. He also signed a contract to be a test driver for Penske Racing. Of course, that job did not bring with it the prestige (and fat wallet) of being a Cup driver, but it was the right door to go through at the right time because now he has been promoted into the 12 ride that Ryan Newman is vacating for greener pastures next year.

The only problem in this scenario for Stremme is that he has landed a ride with a mediocre team. I understand that a move to Cup brings the above-mentioned perks, but the fact is that Penske has been struggling the last couple of years. Nothing has changed for Stremme’s teammate, Kurt Busch, as far as his ability and talent goes, yet Busch has not had near the success that he had as a Roush driver. Other than their fantastic, dramatic finish at the Daytona 500 this year, that team has done very little on a consistent basis the last couple of years. In fact, if you look back, the 2 and 12 teams started their decline at about the time that Matt Borland left Penske Racing. It could be coincidence, but Borland proved that he is extremely smart and capable as a leader in that shop and the fact is that they have not done as well since he departed. Still, congrats to Stremme for fighting his way back into Cup.

Which brings me to my other point. It has been somewhat amusing to watch the last couple of years as the open wheel drivers have made the move to NASCAR. Those guys thought that they were going to come over here for a ride on the money train and take NASCAR by storm, and show these ol’ boys how it is supposed to be done. I guess there is a lot more to it than just turning left. I know a lot of fans of open wheel racing have watched in anticipation of seeing them show the rednecks a thing or two, also. Well, the wine and cheese crowd can look down their noses at us all they want, but the beer and pork rinds bunch done showed them that our boys and us aren’t just a bunch of ignorant fools with a beer in one hand and a monkey wrench in the other trying to find our way through the world. If that were the case, you would think they could have come over and outsmarted us. But the invasion has turned and now the first trickling of the mass exodus has begun with Franchitti announcing this week that he is returning to his bread and butter. Hope you enjoyed your stay, boys. Come back anytime!

As always, please remember to keep our troops that are in harm’s way in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for reading and God bless!

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Jimmie Johnson Sends Message To Chase Contenders

Posted by Keith Murray on September 1, 2008

With one more race to go to the start of the Chase of ’08, Jimmie Johnson and company sent a strong message to the competition – “Don’t count us out.” The last few weeks have been dominated by talk of the 18 and 99 teams, and rightly so. They have been at the top of the game. But for those that think the championship is a lock for Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards, Johnson showed the competition tonight in California that he is turning up the heat at the right time while leading 227 of 250 laps on his way to a dominating win.

It is no secret that the 48 team is a streaky team. When they get hot, they can reel off three or four victories in a row as they showed in the Chase last year. When they get cold, they struggle for several weeks at a time. They are hitting their stride at just the right time.

With back to back championships, Johnson has proven he has the patience and the nerve to perform under pressure. With a totally dominating performance on such a large track, the competition would be foolish to count him out. Johnson and crew chief, Chad Knaus, are showing that they have what it takes to be the first NASCAR team in 30 years to pull off the hat trick with three championships in a row. The competition should be nervous.

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