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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eight NASCAR drivers give sports cars a try

Speedweeks schedules start earlier for a handful of NASCAR drivers who plan to start their 2010 racing season with the Rolex 24. Eight drivers plan to test their racing talents in the sports car arena with the 24-hour event.

Three of those eight drivers will stack a single team. Two-time event winner Juan Pablo Montoya will team with his newly-reunited Ganassi NASCAR teammate, Jamie McMurray, and Max Papis on the TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry.

They won't all three be driving the same car, though. Papis will be part of the driver lineup for the team's No. 02 entry, along with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, and Justin Wilson. Montoya and McMurray will share driving duties with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti in Ganassi's No. 02 entry.

Other NASCAR drivers, however, will serve as the lone NASCAR driver on their respective teams. Four-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will see if sports cars are more of a challenge by joining the GAINSCO/Bab Stallings Racing team with fellow racers Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and Jimmy Vasser .

AJ Allmendinger will share driving duties with Brian Frisselle, Mark Patterson, and Michael Valiante for Michael Shank Racing. This time around will mark the fifth-consecutive year that Allmendinger has raced in the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing. His best finish was a second overall in 2006.

"Getting in the Grand-Am car, especially 24 hours of Daytona there at the Rolex, it's just a great way to kick off the year," Allmending said.

Meanwhile, Paul Menard will join the Spirit of Daytona team, along with Antonio Garcia and Buddy Rice. Colin Braun will run with Krohn Racing with fellow drivers Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn, and Ricardo Zonta.

Montoya, McMurray, Papis, Johnson, Allmendinger, Menard, and Braun will all be competing in Daytona Prototypes.

"Those cars are so much of fun to drive," McMurray said earlier this month after his first time behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype in about five years. "It took me the whole first day just to get used to the cockpit of the car. It's so much different. The steering wheel has what looked like 500 buttons on it, but it's only four or five. And the way the tach works and everything, it took me a while to get used to all of that, and where all the switches are in the car, and just get used to the mirrors and everything that's different about that." 

As his NASCAR peers pilot Daytona Prototypes, Bobby Labonte, on the other hand, will be wheeling a Grand Touring (GT) car. He will be behind the wheel of a TRG Porsche, sharing driving duties with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Tim George Jr., and Spencer Pumpelly.

The green flag will wave on the 48th-annual Rolex 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 30.

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The Boss Is Back : 2010 Top Ten Drivers

The Boss Is Back : 2010 Top Ten Drivers

1- Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's, Hendrick Motorsports
He finished in the top 5 in 16 of 36 races, scored 24 top 10's, and led the circuit with 7 wins. He also was the only driver to lead more than 2000 laps during 2009. He excels on all types of tracks. Check out his wins last year: Dover twice (mile oval with high banking), Martinsville (flat short track), Indy (2.5 mile flat speedway), Fontana (2 mile D shaped tri-oval), Charlotte (1.5 mile speedway), and Phoenix (mile flat track).

2. Jeff Gordon, #24 DuPont, Hendrick Motorsports
The only real difference between Johnson and Gordon during 2009 was Johnson's ability to close out races where he was contending in the top 5 with wins.He had 16 top 5's and 25 top 10's last year (one more than Johnson) with a win at Texas and second place finishes at Michigan, Kansas, Fontana, New Hampshire, Chicago, and Atlanta..

3. Tony Stewart, #14 Office Depot/Old Spice, Stewart-Haas Motorsports
Stewart is widely seen as one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR history, with two championships to back it up. As good as he was during 2009, he should be better this year in his second full season with his new team. He had wins last year at Daytona, Pocono, Watkins Glen, and Kansas. Consider penning him in right now for at least two restrictor plate races -- both road course events -- and at flat speedways like Indianapolis and Pocono.

4. Mark Martin, #5 Kellogg's, Hendrick Motorsports
Martin will take one more shot at the title in 2010, and he has good reason to believe he can close the deal this year. He won 5 times in 2009 and scored 14 top 5's. He closed the season with 10 top 10's in his last 13 starts. Like Johnson, he won on a wide variety of race tracks (Phoenix, Darlington, Michigan, Chicago, and New Hampshire)

5. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M's, Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle missed the Chase last season as his team faltered in the middle third of the season, but he still managed to win 4 times and absolutely dominate two races he did not win at Charlotte and Texas. He closed the season with 6 straight finishes of 15th or better -- including 3 top 10's -- and should bounce back strong. He is tops at each of the restrictor plate tracks and short tracks (except Martinsville), and a top 5 option on most of the 1.4 mile intermediate speedways.

6- Kurt Busch, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing SouthBusch had a very solid 2009 that culminated in 9 top 11's over his past 11 races. As usual, he contended in each of the 4 restrictor plate events, scoring 3 top 10's over those 4 races. He won at both Atlanta and Texas, and scored top 5's on a variety of race tracks including Fontana, Phoenix, New Hampshire, Dover, Daytona, Richmond, and Homestead. He will be valuable this season; the former champ is a championship contender this season.

7-Juan Pablo Montoya, #42 Big Red/Target, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Montoya's 2009 season was not a fluke. He made the Chase, and then made serious headway over the last 10 races with 5 top 5 finishes (New Hampshire, Dover, Kansas, Fontana, and Martinsville). He didn't have any wins, but will always be a threat at Sonoma and Watkins Glenn, and on flat tracks like Phoenix, New Hampshire, Martinsville, Pocono, and Indy. He has also shown a great ability to compete on the 1.5 and 2 mile ovals (top 10's at Texas, Charlotte, Michigan, and Atlanta last year).

8- Carl Edwards, #99 Aflac/Subway, Roush Racing
Edwards will be somewhere between the 9 wins and 19 top 5's he had in 2008 and the zero wins and 7 top 5's he had last year. If the trend from last season continues,Edwards is best: the intermediate speedways. In that category, he had top 10's at Fontana (twice), Atlanta, Charlotte, twice at Michigan, and Homestead.

9- Kasey Kahne, #9 Budweiser, Richard Petty Motorsports
Kahne finished outside the top 10 in 9 of the first 11 events last year, and killed his chances in the Chase with 4 finishes outside the top 30. He won at Atlanta and Sonoma -- the former not so surprising given Kahne's ability to win on the 1.5 and 2 mile ovals throughout his career -- and the latter extremely shocking. He scored top 10's at Charlotte, Kansas, Dover, and Talladega during the Chase, and top 5's at Pocono, Chicago, and Bristol earlier in the season.

10- Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 Mountain Dew Amp Energy, Hendrick Motorsports
Earnhardt had only 2 top 5's all season (Talladega, Michigan) and no top 10's in his final 12 starts.His abilities on restrictor plate tracks and short tracks are documented.With Hendricks making over Junior and team with a huge support effect from the Martin no. 5 crew and enginners Look for Dale to start running top tens at the start

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NASCAR: The Past, Present, And Future

Well, here we are, only days away from the 52nd running of the Daytona 500 and the start of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Even though racing fans endure a much shorter off season than other sports, they are eager, craving, and "geared up" for the waving of the green flag on February 14th, Valentines Day(you lucky gals), signaling the start of "The Great American Race." But do you know there was a time when the Daytona 500 was the second race of the season?
Yes, it is true. With almost no exception and until the 1982 Daytona 500, Florida was the host to the second race in the NASCAR series bowing to January starts in Riverside California. NASCAR has certainly come a long way since its beginnings in 1948. Born out of "bootleggers" trying to outrun the law in their whiskey laden trucks during the Prohibition visionary, Bill France Sr. put together a circuit of 8 races which has blossomed into a grueling 36 stop series attracting millions of fans. Named the NASCAR Strictly Stock Division in its first year all the NASCAR tracks were dirt with the exception of a small portion at Daytona until Darlington Raceway opened its doors in 1950 with the first fully paved track. Rules and safety were secondary to giving the race fan what they wanted with the good ol' bumping and banging and rivalries that produced occasional fist fights. The sixties and seventies were NASCAR's hay day producing exciting races and strong competition from drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarbourough, Bobby Allison, Benny Parsons, Buddy Baker, and later Dale Earnhardt.
Today thanks to the vision of Bill France Sr., all the great drivers of the past, and great marketing, NASCAR is one of the most exciting and popular spectator sports. Instead of just an occasional TV broadcast 40 years ago it is now broadcasted every week of its season with different networks getting in on the action. Safety of the drivers has improved greatly with many of us wondering how these drivers walk away from major crashes unharmed. They have changed the old point system with the "Race To The Chase" format making for a more exciting and competitive finish to the season. But all is not well with NASCAR. The introduction of the COT(car of tomorrow) has added to the safety of drivers, but also has left some race teams struggling to compete. Although viewership in the last 15 years has generally increased, the recession left attendance down last year. Many sponsors find themselves under increased economic pressure to restrict or end all together their cash flow into the sport. Many smaller race teams find themselves unable to compete with larger teams with deeper pockets and last year's restrictions on bumpdrafting left many fans feeling NASCAR was restricting the driver's ability to race. Bad weather and late starts also contributed to lower attendance last year and the struggles of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport's most popular driver for many years, may also be contributing to the drop of interest. This year NASCAR has taken away the restrictions on bump drafting, opened up the restrictor plates, and gone back to one o'clock local race times for day races in hopes of stopping decreases in viewership. NASCAR, it appears, is realizing that perhaps they have put too many restrictions on both the car and the drivers and need to go back to what made it popular...bumping and banging, rivalries, and plain old "good ol' boy racing'."
So what does the future of NASCAR hold? Well let's hope not electric or hydrogen cars. The day I go to a race and can't smell the fumes from racing fuel or hear the roar of the engines is the day I start watching figure skating. But I don't think I really have to worry about that. It appears that NASCAR does realize that in order for them to survive hard economic times, just like any other business, they must give their customer, the fan, exactly what they want. And that is the plain old good racing complete with heroes and villains, the ever present chance for "the big one," and a good mix of controversy. Even though viewership may be down, the sport enjoys a strong fan base and will continue to enjoy good ticket sales, adequate sponsorship, and TV revenue. Soon I think you will see even more tracks open up on the Sprint Cup Series, however, I am afraid that tracks in smaller markets like Darlington are in jeopardy. I think they will have to come up with something better than the present Chase format if they are to bring true excitement to the end of the year, but they are certainly headed in the right direction. In short, although there are a few dark clouds on the horizon there is nothing but blue sky behind it. NASCAR will endure. So on Valentines Day this year, give your sweetheart a real treat, quench your thirst for racing, and tune into the 52nd running of the Daytona 500 with him/her by your side. It's a must see and they will love ya for it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finally, NASCAR Takes A Positive Form

Negative focus seems to always be put on NASCAR, even when there is not much negativity to talk about. It almost seems as if NASCAR has more critics than any other sport. Now that may or may not be true. However, it doesn't quite matter, we might have just found a way to hush all those critics: listening to the fans.

Although it seems like it took forever, NASCAR is finally taking in fan imput(well, at least more than usual.) It all started with double file restarts.....shootout style, last year. Although that was a change that seems like it took place a long time ago, it still was a start. This change was a result of the feedback from the fans. It seems NASCAR has actually figured out that when they listen to the fans, there is usually a good outcome. In fact, it is very probable that the restart rule was one of the best changes in all of NASCAR history.

Now recently, as most of us know, NASCAR has made another set of changes. The loosening of bump-drafting rules as well as a larger restrictor plate and a spoiler have brought even more positivity into the sport.

My point? The critics better find another way to bash this amazing sport because I'm pretty sure we found a good way to shut them up.

****Special note to NASCAR: Good Job!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just A Word: I'm Ready

Just A Word: I'm Ready

Thursday, January 7, 2010

By: Paul Denton



Well are you all up to the coming 36-38 weeks of racin?

I tell you for me it's been like a life time I just can't wait I got the tv set up the ole pc set to my places of interest so during the race I can just click the old mousey and there's the fact's ,the beers cooilng ,the grills ready and the dogs and burgers are waiting to be slapped on. Got the old woman a Danica aint pretty as me t shirt Got my Junior hat on ,Martin tshit,An I 'd love to kick jimmies ass boots on Now im ready to go go go

Hope you are too Good Racin To Ya