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Ruminating All Things NASCAR

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Dale, Jr Says Season Is Too Long

Posted by Keith Murray on November 1, 2008

There is a very good article I read today over at Yahoo! Sports in which Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was quoted as saying that the season is too long in our sport. He apologizes for the comparisons to the NFL, but there is no need to – his assessment that they give you just enough to leave you hanging and wanting more is appropriate. It’s kinda like when you are dating someone and first falling in love (I have been happily married for 12 years, so I am out of practice, but my memory is still good!) – as much as you want to spend every waking moment with that person, too much of a good thing can grow old very fast.

From the time we wave the checkered flag at Homestead to the first days of Preseason Thunder in Daytona is about 2 months. You barely have time to turn your attention to Thanksgiving and Christmas and then it is right back to racing. I love racing, but he has a great point. There is barely any excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season when you just fiinished the last season a few weeks ago.

And he is also right about NASCAR not making any changes. They would let the whole thing crash and burn before they did anything to scale back some revenue – even if it was for the long-term good of the sport.


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Edwards Wins PepBoys 500, Atlanta 2008

Posted by Keith Murray on October 27, 2008

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Posted by Keith Murray on October 23, 2008

Just got a call from my stepdad. Someone has given him 4 tickets to the Atlanta race that they won in a contest. So me and my two sons are headed to Hampton with him this weekend for the race! How sweet is that!

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Latest Change For the “Better” – No More Chasing In Atlanta

Posted by Keith Murray on October 20, 2008

This is not going to be my favorite weekend for NASCAR racing. Atlanta Motor Speedway is the closest track to my house, and it was the first track that I ever saw a live race at, so seeing it lose more tradition is somewhat sad for me.

We as NASCAR fans are getting more and more used to the things that we like being taken away from us. I could write a very long list of things that have happened in this sport over the last decade that have been changed – some for the better (like it or not, the Chase format has transformed our sport, mostly in a good way), but mostly for the worst. The one change that I dislike the most has been the way race dates have been shuffled and some of the best tracks on the circuit have lost one or all of their race dates.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is simply the latest victim in a long line of scheduling changes. Not long ago, the last race of the season and the crowning of the Cup champion took place in Hampton, GA at AMS. That tradition was stripped away from the Southern folks and sent to south Florida. As a famous comedian once said, “The further south you go into Florida, the further north you get.” For those of you that don’t understand that. let me put it this way – the further south you go into Florida, the fewer 4×4 pickups with dog-pens in the back and gun racks in the window you will see. Got it? Good. And that’s OK – Homestead makes for some good racing since they reconfigured the track.

However, the biggest disappointment for the fans that gave NASCAR its roots, foundation, and beginning phases of the growth spurt – the ones that brung her to the dance, so to speak – was the loss of the Labor Day weekend race at Darlington. That race was stripped away and sent out to the Left Coast where racing is seemingly like everything else in LA/Hollywood – it is a fad. The racing is boring and the stands have gotten more and more empty with every follow-the-leader lap that has been run there. Nothing against the folks in California – my sister and her boyfriend go to the races there in Fontana – but it is simply the truth. There are some diehard fans out there, but the stands are less and less full every race we see there. All the while, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham – one of the best racing venues in America for pure racing – and Darlington’s Lady in Black sit dejected and quiet at the corner of the dance floor. All we are asking NASCAR to do is to dance with the one that brung you. And bringing the Labor Day race back to the South was not the change Southern fans were looking for. If we are going to lose our races – and we know that is inevitable – at least replace those venues with ones that offer good to exceptional racing in their stead.

Moving Atlanta’s race to Labor Day will in no way fill the void left by the removal of the second Darlington date that for many years occupied that slot in the calendar. Auto Club Speedway still has two dates, and even worse, now has been awarded a spot in the Chase – as though we didn’t already have enough cookie-cutter tracks in the final 10 races. If Atlanta was being moved out of the Chase, I can name at least 4 other tracks that would have been better replacements than another mile-and-a-halfer. Rockingham and North Wilkesboro have none, and Darlington has been demoted to just one race – that being on Mother’s Day weekend.

It wasn’t that we were upset about losing the Labor Day race in general. It was losing the “Darlington” Labor Day race, and the salt in the wound was seeing what seemed to be a lack of appreciation by not seeing that date sell out. After all, that was the whole reason for moving it out there – to get more fans involved and out to the track. Its kind of like buying your 2 year old a nice toy for their birthday and watching them play with the box it came in more than the toy itself. If they aren’t going to buy up all the tickets every year, either build a track somewhere that doesn’t have a race and send the race date there, or bring it back to Darlington or Rockingham where some fans will actually show up for the races.

Listen, I understand how things work in the world. I am not ignorant. NASCAR is in this deal to make money. But the best way to make money is to keep the fans happy and put on the best show possible week in and week out. I understand the expansion of NASCAR out of the South. It was bound to happen and I am not at all bitter about it. What frustrates me the most is that in doing so, we lost some of the most excited racing there was on the circuit. In losing races at Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, and Darlington, we picked up cookie-cutter tracks in Texas, Kansas, and California. Woohoo. How exciting. Jump for joy.

So this is it for Atlanta. No more Chase dates for her. We’ll be going the first weekend of September each year when we are still seeing temperatures in the 90’s and humidity around 130% which makes for a heat index of somewhere around broiling, and we will like it. I hate to be pessimistic, but I don’t expect any more fans to show up that week for racing. That is around the same time that college football starts, and that is a religious situation for a lot of folks around these parts. I hope I am wrong because I would hate to see AMS lose that slot altogether. I love this sport and want to see it excel, but if you keep tinkering with a house of cards long enough, sooner or later it will all come crashing down on you.

As always, please remember to pray for our troops out there fighting for our right to talk and fuss about racing. Also, pray for our country and please go vote on election day. Thanks for reading and God bless each of you!

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Jimmie Johnson Wins 2008 Martinsville TUMS QuickPack 500

Posted by Keith Murray on October 19, 2008

Nice burnout!!

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Burton Wins At Charlotte

Posted by Keith Murray on October 14, 2008

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Hamlin Released From Hospital

Posted by Keith Murray on October 6, 2008

I have always hated to hear the crowd roar its approval when a driver smacks the wall. Regardless of how much you dislike a driver, after we lost Dale Earnhardt, our first reaction should be to turn our concern and prayers to the driver after he hits the wall or is in an accident. No matter how much you hate a driver, this is just a sport and we are talking about life and death at the speeds these guys are going.

I am glad to see that Denny has been released from the hospital and checked out OK. Hopefully, we will see him in Charlotte this weekend ready to roll!

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By The Numbers, It’s Johnsons Title To Lose

Posted by keithmurray on October 6, 2008

Whether you’re a fan or a hater, you have to respect the amazing numbers that Jimmie Johnson has put up since he entered the NASCAR scene merely 6 years ago. His numbers and performance stand head and shoulders above the competition during those years. He has the highest winning percentage of any active driver, is the back-to-back reigning champion, and – if the numbers are any indication – this is his championship to lose.

Anyone that has followed NASCAR the last few years knows that when the weather starts to cool off and the leaves start to change colors, it is time for the 48 team to crank up. Right now, Johnson is leading Carl Edwards by 72 points and The Biff by 77. Unfortunately for those guys and any other callers, we are heading to what have historically been Johnson’s best tracks. Check out these stats since the inception of the Chase format:

Last year, Johnson stumbled in what he terms as his home track – he came in 14th at Charlotte. But the three previous years, his finishes were second, first, and first. Average Charlotte fall race finish – 4.5

At the Martinsville chase race, his last four finishes there (starting with the latest in 2007) are first, first, third, and first. Average finish – 1.5

Last four Chase races in Atlanta – first, second, 16th, and first for an average of 5th.

The Cup series did not run in Texas the first year of the Chase, we actually had a REAL race at Darlington – but that is another subject. The last three fall race finishes for Johnson in Texas – first, second, and fifth for an average finish of 2.6

At Phoenix, the great numbers continue with fall race finishes of first, second, seventh, and sixth for an average of 4th.

At the finale in Homestead, Johnson had a horrible night and finished 40th in 2005. His last four finishes there are 7th, 9th, 40, and 2nd, for an average finish of 14.5. Take out the 40th place finish and the average is 6th. However, the last two years all Johnson had to do was play it safe to win his championships.

But here is the most impressive stat of all – in the last two seasons, he has an average finish of 3.6 over these last six tracks. The numbers do not bode well for those trying to run down Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. For all the talk earlier this year of how bad they were running, they have shown again that they know when it is time to turn it on and pull away from the competition – and they are poised to do it yet again and be catapulted into some esteemed company with a Championship Threepeat.

If Johnson can continue to do what he has done the last 4 years since the Chase was implemented, he is going to be nearly impossible to catch. All that the others can do at this point is run as hard as they can and hope that maybe the 48 team has some sort of hiccup. But judging by history, it would definitely be unlike them to do such a thing. It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings, but she may be warming up backstage for the matinee.

As always, please remember to pray for our troops in harm’s way, and especially for this upcoming election. Thanks for reading and God bless!

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2008 Amp 500 – the REAL Big One takes out several Chasers

Posted by Keith Murray on October 6, 2008

Carl Edwards was so scared about this race and said so many times. Yet, he is the guy that started the wreck that took himself out.

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2008 Amp 500 – First of 2 Big Ones

Posted by Keith Murray on October 6, 2008

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