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Archive for February, 2009

Fox Network Sprint Cup Coverage Should Always Open With The Theme From The Movie ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’

February 24, 2009 11 comments

The good of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race in Fontana?  Well, Angie Harmon throwing the green flag was somewhat exciting. She could throw the green flag at any race I attend.  In fact, since ABC cancelled her TV show, maybe NASCAR could hire her as flag person. I was also glad to see Jeff Gordon finish second in the race, though first would have been better as far as I am concerned.

 

The bad of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race in Fontana?  The track-going 200 miles an hour in single file and turning left is not racing to a lot of people. The late starting time. The late finishing time. If the ridiculous starting times are permanent, cut races like this to 300 miles.  Heck, even if they aren’t permanent, cut the races to 300 miles.   The preposterous length of pre-race shows was bad, very bad, and worse.  I watched the Nebraska State High School Bowling Championships (and no, I am not a bowler-I haven’t bowled in 20 years) and the movie ‘Major League’ for about the 50th time on HBO, and still caught more pre-race activity than I wanted to. One hour maximum on one channel is plenty.

 

The ugly of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race in Fontana?  No question about this really.  It was the Darrell Waltrip interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the follow-up comments by Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond. For the most part I have enjoyed Waltrip’s announcing antics-other than my well-documented dislike of “Boogety, etc.”  His pre-race piece left me shaking my head and yelling at the TV that he might want to remove his lips from Earnhardt’s and NASCAR’s hindquarters the next time he does an interview.  A gushing review of the interview by Chris Myers was disappointing.  As far as Jeff Hammond’s typically inane remarks, well, every time I listen to Hammond I think “snake oil” salesman and that he really should be announcing wrestling. Even though he is thousands of miles away I have the urge to put my hands on my wallet. This was not journalism at its finest.

 

Fox coverage of NASCAR events has me longing for the good old days of NASCAR on ESPN. 

 

For those of you who think I am full of it when it comes to NASCAR, here is a link to someone who isn’t all that fond of what racing in the modern era has become either.  Check out:  http://www.frontstretch.com/mmclaughlin/22675/

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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How Many Cars Will Dale Jr. Take Out This Week, Plus A Grassroots Stimulus Plan

February 21, 2009 12 comments

If Fox Sports wants to boost their NASCAR Sprint Cup ratings, they should run a weekly contest dedicated to Dale Jr.  To enter, send in your name, address, phone #, and age to Fox Sports.  To win a person will have to watch the entire race closely.  A Fox network employee will call one entrant weekly and ask for the following:

 

The number of times Dale Jr. missed his pit box + the number of cars he took out in the race + the number of people he blamed his ill fortune on, other than himself (this could include other drivers, crew members, and NASCAR).  Winners will receive an all expenses paid trip for two to one of the 2010 Sprint Cup races at Pocono or Dover.  Trip packages will include airfare, deluxe accommodations, two race tickets, AND a trip through the Sprint Cup garage area escorted by Larry McReynolds and Kenny Wallace, including a 30 second stop at the 88 garage, where you will be allowed to gawk, but not speak or take photos.

 

I have a friend who wants me to do a blog title “Are the Waltrips what is wrong with NASCAR?”  Personally I thought Darrell was a good driver and have no problem with him other than “boogety.”  Michael is penalized by NASCAR’s weight rules including just car, not car and driver (i.e. the cars don’t all weigh the same).  This fan does like A.J. Allmendinger though.

 

I woke up at 3:45 a.m. this morning with an idea for a government bail-out of the grassroots racing industry.  Because I am a fair person, I included both dirt and asphalt tracks and tracks that run only sprint cars.  Auto racing is closely tied with automobile manufacturing and we know how much money GM and Chrysler have already received.  I contend that most race tracks are as poorly managed as GM and Chrysler.  Promoters go to meetings in Reno and Daytona every year and keep coming back with the same ideas they had twenty years ago.  Most people associate grassroots racing with blue collar workers and Lord knows that portion of our society needs a helping hand right now. So, here is my plan:

 

There are approximately 1,200 local race tracks in the United States.  Because of weather-it gets a little to cold to race in the Northern U.S. in winter-most tracks schedule 20 races a year.  They always lose a few races to rain, but in my plan, Mother Nature is not going to cost any track any money.  My plan is based on the average nightly attendance at a track.  Say an eastern Nebraska (or Iowa or Ohio) track averages 500 fans a night.  500 fans x 20 nights of racing=10,000 in attendance.  10,000 x $10 per person attending=$100,000.  That track would get an economic stimulus check of $100,000.

 

Say a track 15 miles south of the above mentioned track averages 1,500 fans per night.  1,500 fans x 20 nights of racing=30,000 in attendance.  30,000 x $10 would =$300,000.  This track would get an economic stimulus check of $300,000. 

 

I estimate my plan would cost only $240,000,000 and it would ensure that we would not lose any local race tracks this season.  Tracks in turn could offer specials that would allow the millions of local race fans a cheap family night out, and with all the distressing economic news we could all use that.

 

I started this out tongue in cheek, and as High Priest of the Church of I Wish Race Promoters Would Actually Promote it was meant to be a knock on year after year of same old from track owners.  However, my plan would cost only 1/3,500 of the current economic stimulus plan, and mine would actually do some good. So, contact your Congressman or Senator and let him know you are for this “grassroots” issue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  And I really was just kidding about contacting your Congressman.

Jalopy Derby, All-Star Wrestling, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

February 20, 2009 8 comments

I am about to show how old I am, but does anyone else remember when Jalopy Derby was televised on an Omaha station in the 1950’s?  I believe it was on KETV.  I say this only because KETV also brought us All-Star Wrestling, another of my childhood favorites.

 

Jalopy Derby would come on at 10:30 p.m. on Sundays, and occasionally my dad would let us stay up to watch it, much to the irritation of my mother.  I want to say that Parnelli Jones was one of the top drivers, but I won’t swear to it. 

 

I did a Google search and found that 26 episodes of the show were shot in black and white 16 mm, and sound effects were added.  I could not find that there was a DVD available, but I would love to get my hands on one if anyone knows where I might find one.

 

I should write more often about NASCAR especially Sprint Cup series star Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Not only did my reader count jump, the number of comments on my Earnhardt Jr. articles were far greater than normal.  I also received a number of emails on the subject.  One said that NASCAR should start a driving school.  Another who wished to remain anonymous stated that “Dale Jr. is just Paul Menard with good equipment.”  Another stated “he hated the Waltrip family,” though I am not sure what that has to do with the Earnhardt article. 

 

Maybe what I need to do to increase my readership is be a little controversial.  I remember years ago there was an internet character named bruton who would fuss and argue on behalf of race fans everywhere, but I think he retired or is in a home or something.  Too bad.

 

Only two more weeks until the Midwest racing season opens with a two night USMTS show at Junction Motor Speedway.  I am trying to talk my race going buddy into going to at least one of the shows, and have to admit that I am intrigued by the 2:00 p.m. starting time for the Saturday March 7th race.  I know, I know, I know all about daytime and dirt track racing.  However, I haven’t been to a “real” daytime dirt show since the 70’s when a Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenge race at Sunset Speedway was postponed on a Saturday and held on a Sunday afternoon.  I just remember it was very cold that day-surprise, it was a fall race at Sunset Speedway, and I ended up with an angry wife when I came home with a new coat covered in race track dirt.

 

Speaking of race track dirt, in the unlikely event of a Sunset Speedway book ever being done, we could turn it into a multi-media presentation.  You know, a DVD with some race footage, lots of photos in the book, and a scoop of front stretch dirt as a souvenir. Anyone want to see that?

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

More of “How I Can Miss My Pit Box, But Not Brian Vicker’s Quarterpanel.”

February 18, 2009 9 comments

Unlike so many race fans, I am not really big on Dale Earnhardt Jr.  It isn’t what has he done lately, it is what has he done to justify all the attention he receives, other than bearing the name of a NASCAR legend?  There are many more talented drivers in the garage than Jr. and they deserve some of the attention that this Hendricks driver receives.

 

I actually would have respected the man if he had simply said “I made a mistake and deeply regret it.  I will apologize to all the other drivers and try to work through this.”  Instead he blamed Brian Vickers for racing with him, and was irked with NASCAR for penalizing him.  I wish Dick Berggren would have had the courage to state “Dale, there were 43 other cars in the field, meaning there were over 200 pit stops during the race.  No one else had the problems you did.”  However, asking tough questions of NASCAR’s favorite son is not how TV personalities keep a lucrative gig.

 

I would have respected Darrell Waltrip for stating “Jr. needs to be taken out back of the woodshed,” instead of his giving Jr. the benefit of the doubt.  Again, notice the last sentence of the paragraph above.

 

And I would have fallen out of my chair had NASCAR actually penalized its wunderkind.  As replays of Sunday’s “big one” were shown, the first words out of my mouth were “$5 NASCAR doesn’t have the balls to penalize him.”  The race would have ended right then, because the rest of the day would have been spend cleaning seat cushions, beer cans, and pop bottles off the track. 

 

Fifteen years ago, heck, ten years ago, I would not miss a NASCAR race on TV.  Now it is all I can do to watch a few laps.  Races like Pocono, Dover, and New Hampshire will see me watching something else, or maybe reading a book.  Watching paint dry would be more entertaining than those races.  Having Kevin Costner in a NASCAR commercial does not make those track or the cookie-cutter 1 ½ mile tracks anything close to a “Field of Dreams.”  I keep thinking falling ratings may turn things around, but obviously not.

 

Apparently I am not the only person who thinks that yesterday’s handling of the Earnhardt incident was WWE like.  I received some emails this morning with a few links this morning.  You might want to check them out:

 

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/124641-dale-earnhardt-jr-fan-favorite-or-nascar-favorite

 

http://www.examiner.com/x-1617-Detroit-NASCAR-Examiner~y2009m2d15-NASCAR-and-Dale-Jr-should-both-feel-very-ashamed

 

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/motorracing/orl-bianchi16021609feb16,0,4822159.column

 

 

Will NASCAR become the new WWE?

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

The Daytona 380, or Those Damn Pink Pit Signs Will Get You Every Time.

February 16, 2009 13 comments

Matt Kenseth took home the big trophy in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 or this year the Daytona 380, with heavy rain forcing the race to be called. 

 

Unfortunately the Kennseth story line will take second to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. triggered wreck on lap 125. I don’t want to argue with all of Junior’s legion of fans, nor do I want to argue with NASCAR, so I will limit my comments to this:  reverse the positions of the Vickers and Earnhardt cars.  Would there have been no penalty if Earnhardt had tried to block Vickers and Vickers hit Earnhardt, careening him in front of almost the entire field?  If the answer is no penalty, then drivers like race dominant Kyle Busch just got caught up in “one of them racing deals.”  If Vickers would have received a penalty-and Jason Leffler received a five lap penalty for a not dissimilar incident in Saturday’s Camping World 300 race, then NASCAR would have a three egg omelet on its WWE appearing face. Earnhardt’s explanation of how he got involved (hey, he missed his pit box completely once, then was over the line a second time) turned into an attack on both Vickers and NASCAR, one for having the audacity to race him, the other for asking him to follow the rules.  With 43 cars making 4-6 pit stops, I wonder how many other driver missed their pit box twice and tried to blame it on pit signs, NASCAR, the ecomony, or Tom Cruise being in Jeff Gordon’s pit. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. And I lied about arguing with the Junior fans or NASCAR.

 

Just how many commercials did Fox show?

Since this was the first Sprint Cup Series points race of the season, I decided I would bite the bullet, take one for the team, and watch the entire race.  I also decided for amusement purposes, I would take a count of just how many commercials Fox Sports foisted on us. In the slightly over 3 hours between green flag and red flag of the race, Fox provided us with the pleasure of watching 170 commercials.  That does not count the Alltel Race Recaps, Auto Trader Trading Paint, the Ask.com or Aflac trivia questions, or the Joey Lagano Home Depot infomercial.  Not bad, 170 or so commercials for 152 laps of racing.

 

It was Donnie’s fault.

The race showed highlights of the 1979 Daytona 500, or the day NASCAR ceased to be a regional sport.  I remember the race quite well and of course, the fight afterward.  Being a Cale fan, I thought the whole incident was the fault of Donnie Allison.  That was another one of those four different viewpoint incidents-one for each of the drivers, one for NASCAR, and one that most likely was the truth. No one will ever know that point.  I wonder if CBS showed 170 commercials that day.

 

Surprise-I think Florida dirt track racing was better.

The best racing of the day came when radar showed that rain was almost to the track.  Plenty of two and even three wide racing was on the menu as laps ran down, but I can’t say there was anything that had me on the edge of my seat during the race.  My question is, did the best racing of Speedweeks occur not at the big track in Daytona, but the dirt track at nearby Volusia County Speedway, where WoO sprint cars and late models, big block modifieds, and UMP mods and late models raced?  Most of the millions of couch potato fans have never heard of Volusia County or the sanctioning bodies and drivers who raced there the past two weeks, but my money is on the dirt track for the best racing.

 

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

OK, if the Earnhardt incident was ugly, what was good and bad about today’s race?

 

-I read in this morning’s paper that Daytona hotels were having a difficult time filling rooms at $100 per night.  In the past these same hotels have gouged race fans to the tune of $300 or more a night, with at least seven nights booking required.  I guess that is the American way, but it does not break my heart that the hotels got somewhat of a comeuppance this year.  

 

-During a pit stop a lug nut fell off of one of Jamie McMurray’s wheels, and that error cost him nine positions on the track.  Supposedly fans appreciate all that happens during pit stops, but this fan would much rather the race be determined on the track.  At least McMurray was able to find his pit box.

 

-I like the Fox cartoon character Digger better than Larry McReynolds. Please Fox, send him through remedial English. Larry, that is, not Digger.

 

-I like Darrell Waltrip, but think it is time to retire “boogety.”

 

-Clint Bowyer’s Hamburger Helper commercial was really bad. The Lexus commercials were good, and the Race Day Pay Day by Pepsi is going to make me go to the Pepsi website. If Ask.com will send traffic to my website and blog, I will go to their site to find the question answers the announcers wouldn’t give during the race.

 

-I like the safety feature of tethers on the car hood and wheel frame. Either flying off at 180 miles per hour could become a deadly weapon.

 

-I enjoyed watching the Jeff Gordon/Richard Petty discussion shown during the rain delay, and only wish we could have heard the class of two generations of NASCAR talk about the race.

 

-Although his day ended quite early, Joey Lagano seems to be an answer to a NASCAR prayer.  He is nice looking, fairly articulate-some highly popular drivers and at least one TV analyst could take lessons-and it appears he is going to be a heckuva driver.  He also brings a new age group of fans into the NASCAR kingdom.

 

I give the race and coverage a C.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it just was.  However, on Friday night I watched some of the first half of the West Virginia vs. Villanova basketball game, and I would give ESPN coverage of the game a B.  The announcers did a great job, you did not miss 35%-40% of the action (Fox commercials came about every 6-7 laps and lasted 3-3 ½ laps), and some of the Mountaineer passes were a lot more exciting than what I saw today.  Oh, and I hate Big East basketball.

 

I hope Daytona won’t be NASCAR’s most exciting race of 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rik Forbes by Guest Poster Greg Soukup

February 12, 2009 1 comment

Here is another blog post by my favorite guest poster Greg Soukup aka Eagle Pit Shack Guy.  I am thinking that I will have to let rstar guest post soon, sort of like TV stations can’t show just one side during political campaigns.  Anyway, Greg thanks Flat Out for allowing this to be posted, I thank Greg for providing me with another good article, and most of all, I thank you for stopping by.

When most people think about a midget racer, they normally think of someone from Indiana or California, perhaps even Wisconsin; but probably not Omaha, Nebraska. Rik Forbes at 31, quite possibly the prototypical racer you see at your local track every week, has quietly been making a name for himself racing out of there.

Rik got his love of racing from his father Ralph, who began taking him to the local dirt track accompanied by Rik’s grandfather every summer Sunday evening. As Rik grew the trio ventured away from Sunset Speedway for their racing fix to Knoxville and, as Ralph puts it, “any track in the Midwest that was running World of Outlaws or other sprint car races. We pretty much went every weekend, unless the weather was bad”. These trips set the tone for the schedule that Rik and Ralph follow to this day.

“Rik decided in his early teens that he wanted to try racing, although I tried to talk him out of it as being very expensive, time consuming and dangerous” Ralph stated. Finally Rik got the opportunity to try his hand in 1992 when he took to the track for 2 races at Cornhusker Raceway Park in a used 250cc modified midget built by Ron Love. Later on, he moved up to the 660cc multi class; also a used Ron Love car. In 1999 he got his first chance in a full-sized midget, when the team obtained a 2-year old Stealth with a 155 Esslinger from Don Fike. According to Ralph “We pretty much have always raced our own equipment, but Rik has driven for Harry Conklin  in Denver, and four or five times for Kenny Love out of Lincoln”. This year Rik even got a chance to try a non-winged sprint for the first time, thanks to Ed Bowes, when he ran the high-banks of Eagle Raceway.

Their 95J currently features a 2006 Stealth chassis with a new Esslinger engine, and sits in Rik’s garage beside his home; which serves as their base of operations. There are no big corporate sponsor names on it, but that doesn’t mean that there are no sponsors at all.  “We get donations from time to time from friends or fans who will donate $100 or more, whatever they can. And we do pick up a tire deal once in awhile also. But, for the most part we fund the entire operation ourselves. Unlike some teams who have 3 cars and 5 motors, we only have 1 of each” Ralph said.

The Forbes team are almost exclusively weekend racers; not by choice but because the weekends are the only time that Rik has available. “We are a low-budget, family team. I just recently went full-time at U.P.S.; and that meant no vacation for 1 year. And now that my fiancée Kelly Rayburn and I are expecting our first child in January, I have even more reasons to stay home” Rick said. “But that’s the way that we like it. Even though it has been hard to follow one series enough to go for a championship, we have finished pretty much in the top 10 in SMRS, POWERi and RMMRA points every year; including 2 second places in SMRS competition.  Rik was the MARA Rookie of the Year in 2000, and received the Eddie Jackson Memorial Award in 2005 from the RMMRA. We managed to finish in the top 20 in national midget points in both 2005 and 2006, but we really wanted to make the top 10 so Rik could be honored at the Chili Bowl” Ralph added. Having raced at the Chili Bowl all but one year since 2001 has only made them more determined to be there and take part in the ceremony.

Being based out of Omaha means quite a haul for the team in order to find somewhere to race. “We run all over the Midwest pretty much, from Knoxville to Belleville, anywhere we can; I’ve even raced in the Hut 100 in Terre Haute, Indiana. But my favorite tracks are Angel Park Speedway in Sun Prairie Wisconsin, Spoon River Speedway in Canton Illinois, Belle Clair Speedway in Belleville Illinois, Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction Nebraska and Dodge City Raceway Park in Dodge City Kansas. I guess you could say that we just love racing” Rik said. Ralph then added “We do love it, because it is a common interest for us. We have the chance to spend time together working on the car and racing. When we started doing this we didn’t know the first thing about racing, set-ups or anything else. But we did know what made us happy, and that was being at the track together and learning. We’re still learning, but at least we are doing it together. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than racing with Rik. We may not win every night, but if we pull into a track and the other racers say to themselves ‘Rik Forbes just pulled in; there’s another one we’ll have to try and beat’ then we’ve succeeded”.

Cheat, Cheat, Then Cheat Some More

February 11, 2009 9 comments

Occasionally my son Matt poses a question that he knows I will write about.  He doesn’t tell me to write about it, he just knows I won’t be able to keep from making a comment. After the news of baseball star Alex Rodriguez (aka A-Rod/A-Fraud/A-Roid), Matt emailed some of his hardcore racing friends and asked “which sport has more illegal performance enhancing activity, baseball or dirt track auto racing?” Matt didn’t ask about the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, or the NFL, where performance enhancing activity seems to be an accepted part of preparation too.

 

There are roughly 700 major league baseball players, and maybe a few thousand more in the minors.  I have no idea how many college or high school students play baseball, but it would be tens of thousands.  Obviously not every young player uses an illegal performance enhancing drug, but if even one does, that is too many.  And thanks to role models like A-Rod, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds, many youngsters feel they have to use such substances to succeed. 

 

There are also tens of thousands of dirt track drivers in the U.S.  Auto racing has always been a sport where participants view rules as a challenge rather than a restraint.  Most crew members, drivers, and fans too for that matter believe in the old saying “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”  Rules are loosely interpreted, and at many tracks tech is not up to the task of catching cheaters. 

 

So which sport has more cheaters?  Probably dirt track racing.  Ask which has a more important effect, and I would performance enhancing activities in baseball.  First, no one in auto racing is going to earn the $$$ that superstars in baseball do.  Heck, I am not sure that dirt track racing superstars earn what a .200 hitting shortstop does in one season.  Look at a Scott Bloomquist or Donny Schatz, arguably the top super late model driver and top sprint car driver.  Their race winnings don’t come close to $1,000,000 in a season, and while they do have sponsors, baseball players have endorsements.

 

Actually, the dollar figure isn’t the most important answer to this problem.  The athlete’s health is.  Most drivers-most, not all-will not do anything to jeopardize their health if they do stretch the rules.  Racing is dangerous period. Only an idiot would use sub-standard materials in a roll cage, though there are some idiots who have done this.  However, every time a baseball player is injected with steroids, he is risking his health.  That a youngster even faces a choice in this matter is sad.

 

If there were no health or financial implications, would it be OK to cheat?  I don’t have a good answer to that.  For as long as there have been competitive sports, participants have tried to gain an edge.  I don’t see that changing.  Baseball has the money to better police their problem.  To catch cheaters in auto racing would take better trained and equipped tech people, and that takes money, something few dirt tracks have an abundance of. 

 

What irritates me the most about race cheaters is they diminish the efforts of drivers who do follow the rules.  Thanks for stopping by.