Monday, February 28, 2011

You can't argue with this Kyle Busch

   Kyle Busch gets a lot of criticism for the way he handles bad situations and even situations many people wouldn't consider so bad, such as finishing second. Sunday's race at Phoenix appeared to set the stage for another 'bad Kyle' moment after he had a run-in with Carl Edwards on the track and lost his lead late in the race to eventual winner Jeff Gordon.

   But tracked down post-race on pit road by Fox, Busch offered the following response to a question asking about the incident between himself and Edwards:

   “It was a real big mistake on my part and the first person I have to apologize to is Carl Edwards, obviously for what happened there on the backstretch. It just got out from underneath me and we were getting bounced around like a ping pong ball there for a while. I got into him and just killed his day. I know he was frustrated and I could tell out there on the race track. I apologize, I don’t know how many times. It was unintentional, especially for the way we raced yesterday -- it was so good to race that way and put on a good show for the race fans. To have that happen, I know they had a good race car. All that aside, I can’t thank these guys enough for this Combos Camry. They did a great job this weekend bringing up a great race car off the truck. We had a fun time today. We came through a lot of adversity. We worked real hard, Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys never gave up. The pit stops were good all day.  We kept battling through everything that was thrown at us. There at the end, Jeff (Gordon) just had a better car than us. I thought when I got out to a big enough lead, I thought I was going to hold him off this far and he just ran me down and flat out passed me. He was really, really fast and we couldn’t hold him back. It’s good to see those guys in victory lane.  Those are my old 5 guys. That’s cool if anything is good about today.”

   Say what you want, that was a comprehensive, rationale and level-headed response from Busch addressing just about everything (even what was not initially asked).

   This is what fans and media would like to see more often from Busch. No one expects anyone who loses to be happy. They would appreciate, however, the opportunity to hear Busch's side of the story. Most times he is not required to do so.

   Making the effort, however, does leave a more positive, lasting impression on everyone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finally, somebody gets to the point of this two-car drafting mess

   If drivers or even race fans don't like this reliance on two-car drafting that has dominated Speedweeks on the Sprint Cup Series this year, they need look no further to the drivers and team themselves for a large part of the problem.

   Everyone knew the track was repaved. Everyone knew that would change conditions. Everyone knew - or we thought - how important preseason testing was going to be.

   Yet, when it came down to doing the work on the track in January, most drivers and teams took a pass. They spent or no time whatsoever racing with most of their competitors on the track, let alone in two-car tandems.

   So, whose fault is that? Not NASCAR's.

   Tony Stewart illustrated this perfectly on Friday.

   Told of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s suggestion that everyone needs to go to Talladega and Daytona and do a big two-day test and figure out how to change he two-car draft, Stewart replied:

   "If I remember right, when we came down for the open test (Earnhardt) did single car runs the whole time he was here so if he felt that way, why didn’t he do that in the test while we were all here together? 

   “We tried getting in big packs for three days down here and we couldn’t get people to quit doing single car runs and worrying about trying to make the race cars go fast. In the big pack you want master of your own destiny," he said.

   "I don’t know where he got that from because you have always been relying on the guy behind you so if you want to be the master of your own destiny, take the restrictor plates off. Figure out how to let us drive race cars again.”

   Stewart may not always address things in the best possible way. But on this issue he is dead-on. Ask the drivers who are complaining to look in the mirror for some of the blame if they don't like the conditions in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Going deep with Mark Martin

   I recently spent a good bit of time talking with Sprint Cup driver Mark Martin about his future in the sport, about what still drives him, how he sees his career playing out and the many different routes its taken over the last seven years.

   Much of the discussion was used for a story which will appear on and shortly, but we discussed so many topics I wanted to share some of the answers that didn't make the story. They're below:
   You find yourself looking down the road? Ever thinking of not driving?
   Martin: I do think about it. In 2005, I had this feeling that all I wanted to do was go home and just sit on the couch because I hadn’t done that. That’s what I wanted to do. I did that and now I have a good balance of that – I get some couch time and some super-quality family time. But my passion is racing and I realize that there is going to have to be a transition and it will have to be a gradual transition from driving to my next involvement in racing. I embrace that but the people in the garage don’t take to me about that. Nobody in the garage wants to talk to me about anything I could do for them except drive their car. That’s the reality. That’s not me, that’s reality. That’s all they want to talk to me about. I am interested in getting involved in an organization where I can make a transition, but it may not work out. Most of the time in this sport, when you can’t drive any more, the sport has no use for you. You can name them – Ernie Irvan, Bobby Allison, you name it. If you can’t be a broadcast, which I can’t, there’s no use for you in this sport today. Unless you want to be an owner. I don’t want to be involved in racing bad enough to be an owner. That could change, too. Someone could present me with an opportunity like Tony Stewart had, which might or might not happen in my lifetime, then I would consider it.

   In a sport where no matter how good you are, you always lose more than you win, what is the most alluring thing about it for you? 
   That’s a complex question and it probably changes with age and longevity. For me today, having fans that support you in their enthusiastic way, working around people that admire and respect you and are excited to be associated with you, to be able to help them realize their potential and maybe their dreams is very rewarding. To work as one spoke in a big wheel is kind of fun – it’s kind of like life as I’ve known it. I don’t know if I would enjoy it if I wasn’t better than two-thirds of them out there still. I hate to make a statement like that but I can still hold my own. If I couldn’t hold my own against most of them then I don’t think it would be as much fun for me. I thought that was gone in 2005, too. I thought I was diminished at that time and I thought that was just the way it was. I didn’t know I could have the year that I had in 2008 or a year like I had in 2009 or for that matter, a year like I had in 2010, because there again I outran two-thirds of them.

   Can you envision a day when racing is not what you’ll want to do?   Racing still makes me happy. Brian Vickers (who returns to competition this season after missing most of 2010 with a blood clot problem) and I have something in common now. We have sort of shared the experience of looking the end (of our careers) in the face. That was one of my considerations in 2005. After experiencing that, I know now that’s not what I want. I could be anywhere in the world right now I want. I could be on any beach in the world. I want to be at the race track. I don’t do it because I need to, have to or anything else. I do it because I want to.  I appreciate it now more than I ever did. I took a lot of things for granted. There are a number of reasons you might quit doing something, one of those reasons is if what you do stands in the way of what you want to be doing. Racing did stand in the way of me doing what I wanted to do in 2005. So, I had to weigh that out. I was willing to give up the kind of schedule I had to be able to do what I wanted to do which was have some time away from racing with my son and with my wife and my family. 
   It’s doubtful that will ever come in my lifetime. There is a transition from what I do now to what I will do in the future, but it’s still most likely going to be racing until the end, much like a Richard Petty. It is possible that I find a new passion. I used to as a kid, my passion changed frequently. It just has really never waivered since I started racing in 1974. The only thing I was willing to do was give up my fulltime schedule to spend more time with family.

   Does racing still bring you the same fullfillment?   Racing still makes me happy. Brian Vickers (who returns to competition this season after missing most of 2010 with a blood clot problem) and I have something in common now. We have sort of shared the experience of looking the end (of our careers) in the face. That was one of my considerations in 2005. After experiencing that, I know now that’s not what I want. I could be anywhere in the world right now I want. I could be on any beach in the world. I want to be at the race track. I don’t do it because I need to, have to or anything else. I do it because I want to.  I appreciate it now more than I ever did. I took a lot of things for granted. There are a number of reasons you might quit doing something, one of those reasons is if what you do stands in the way of what you want to be doing. Racing did stand in the way of me doing what I wanted to do in 2005. So, I had to weigh that out. I was willing to give up the kind of schedule I had to be able to do what I wanted to do which was have some time away from racing with my son and with my wife and my family. 


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brotherly Love at Daytona

   Brian Keselowski didn’t have a teammate to race with on Thursday.

   He didn’t need one. He had a brother.

   Brian, the older brother of Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski, found his brother during the second Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race and the two worked together to form a fast two-car tandem, which has become commonplace in the racing here this week.

   Late in the race, the brothers managed to even contend for the race lead before eventually Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer took control of the outcome.

   Brain Keselowski, with Brad’s help, still finished fifth – good enough to ensure a starting position in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Brad ended up seventh and was already assured a spot in the field.

   As the cars stopped on pit road following the race, Brad walked over to Brian’s car and stuck his head inside. As Brad left, Brian could be seen wiping tears from his eyes.

   Good things still do happen to good people.

   “We wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him,” Brian said of Brad. After Brian's midrace difficulty, "I went back there with him to make sure that he could get up behind us. We tried to work together to find a hole (through the field).”

   Brian Keselowski, 29, will be making his first career Sprint Cup start on Sunday. Brad, 26, already has a Cup victory and on a fast track to a big time NASCAR career.

   Brad will race Sunday in a well-prepared, top-of-the-line Dodge from Penske Racing - not a bad deal when Penske teammate Kurt Busch has so far won all the races he's entered at Speedweeks.

   Brian came to Daytona Beach with a car built in 2006 by Evernham Motorsports, engine help from Ernie Elliott and no full sponsorship.

   Asked after the race if he and his brother ever talked about racing in the Daytona 500 together, Brad said, "I’m not sure if we dreamed about it, but I did dream about the day that we didn’t beat each other up.”

   No matter the result on Sunday, Brad Keselowski will continue racing the rest of the 36-race Cup season.

   Now that he's assured a spot in the field, Brian Keselowski will make enough money in the 500 regardless of where he finishes to continue racing at Phoenix next weekend.

   In that sense, Brad has already made Brian a winner this week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Earnhardt Jr. wrecks pole-winning car

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. will remain credited with the pole for this season's Daytona 500 but will not lead the field to the green flag.

   Earnhardt and Martin Truex Jr. were involved in a wreck during practice on Wednesday, forcing both drivers to have to use backup cars for Thursday's qualifying races and Sunday's 500.
   Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt were running in a two-car tandem with the tandem of Truex and Brian Vickers behind them when Johnson needed to slow because for traffic coming on the track. Truex hit Earnhardt from behind, sending both cars spinning into the infield wall.
   "You got to pay attention out there. If you're going to come out and race, you got to pay attention," Earnhardt said.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NASCAR rule changes are underway

    NASCAR wasted no time in making some changes to limit the abundance of two-car tandems that dominated much of Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.
   Sprint Cup Series crews were issued technical bulletins on Sunday afternoon outlining changes to the size of the openings of the cars' front grills and the addition of a pressure relief valve to the water system.
   Both are designed to help limit the amount of time cars would be able to "hook up" together before engine temperatures get dangerously high.
   Jimmy Makar, vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing, says the changes should decrease the distance drivers can maintain in the two-car tandems.   There could still be additional changes prior to Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races or even Sunday's Daytona 500 if needed, NASCAR officials said.
   "Basically, they’re going to restrict the amount of air that’s going to flow through the radiator with a smaller opening in the grill so you’re going to get less cooling through your radiator,” Makar said. “That will tend to make your cars run hotter when you’re in the draft too long. It’s going to make you have to step out more often.
   “The valve is going to keep you from being able to run a pressurized water system to where you don’t boil water as quickly. You’re not going to have the ability to run a lot hotter than 220 to 230ish. It will drop that number down a little bit as to how hot you can run the motor before you start pushing water out.”
   Officials will continue to monitor speeds, which topped upwards of 206 mph by some drivers on Saturday night.

Yellow line rule: Here we go again

   It's become almost as much of a trademark of restrictor-plate racing as "the Big One."

   We can't get through a season without a controversy - or creating one - having to do with NASCAR's yellow-line rule.

   For those new to the sport - since the rule has been in place for nearly a decade now - that means drivers cannot advance their position on the track at Daytona or Talladega by passing below the yellow line (drivers can also be penalized for forcing others below the yellow line).

   So, here we are at the 2011 season's first event, the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, and on the last lap Denny Hamlin dives below the yellow line to pass Ryan Newman in hopes of winning the race. NASCAR calls him on it and black-flags him. Kurt Busch becomes the winner.

   Kurt Busch won at approximately 10:03 p.m. Saturday night. The first motorsports media member lamented about the finish and took up Hamlin's cause at 10:12 p.m. (I was shocked it took that long).

   The rule is silly when racing for the win, they say. Anything should go at the end of a race, they say. Hamlin eventually chimed in himself later, claiming he would have sent Ryan Newman's car airborne if he didn't duck under the yellow line at the last minute.

   Nice one Hamlin. Defending your actions by claiming you may have sent a competitor's car airborne - the greatest fear at tracks like Daytona and Talladega - was self-serving at it's best, but I digress.

   Back to the yellow line rule. In the 2008 Trucks season opener at Daytona, three trucks crossed the finish line three-wide, with one below the yellow line. All were allowed to keep their respective finishing positions because "they were racing for the win on the last lap."

   Months later, Regan Smith used that same move to pass Tony Stewart for the win at the conclusion of a Cup race at Talladega, Ala., but that time NASCAR said no. To help end the confusion, NASCAR President Mike Helton issued the following statement:

   "Since the end of the race there has been some confusion as to what is allowable during the last lap at Daytona and Talladega. To be clear, as we go forward, there will be no passing under the yellow line at any time during NASCAR races at Daytona or Talladega, period. This includes any passing below the yellow line near the start/finish line on the final lap."

   Folks, that's about as clear cut as it gets. And by the way, that's how rules should be - the less ambiguity the better.

   Because some fans and media didn't like the finish of the Shootout - or perhaps who won it - NASCAR is being prompted to flip-flop its rule again.

   I don't have any problem with people who think the yellow line rule itself should be changed. The fact it is, however, it exists and existed Saturday night, so that argument in respect to what took place in the Shootout is irrelevant.

   The only question is did NASCAR follow its own rules it has laid out in this case and it certainly did.

   Case closed.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

What did Dale Sr. do for Jeff Gordon?

   There's no question once Jeff Gordon debuted in NASCAR in 1992, it wasn't long after fans and media began connecting him to Dale Earnhardt Sr., particularly as a rival on the track.

   And while Earnhardt may never intended it (or maybe he did), he may have helped Gordon connect with a lot of NASCAR fans and establish his own fan base.

   "Absolutely there's no doubt I wouldn't have been as popular, and this is something we talk about today with the sport, with a guy like Jimmie (Johnson) winning five in a row, there just isn't that rivalry. It wasn't made up. It just happened," Gordon explained.
   "Here's this young kid from California growing up in modern day motorsports, just growing up being interviewed on ESPN and all those things, to old-school, hard-knocks Dale Earnhardt. It was just black and white, just two total opposites in a way, even though later, as Dale and I got to know one another, we weren't as opposite as maybe it was perceived from the outside. Still, that's the way the fans thought of it and the way the media thought of it. It heightened the excitement of those races, those championship battles."

   Gordon said it was his objective to avoid rivalries, much like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson appears to do. But that changed with Earnhardt.

   "Dale was just one of those kind of guys that it worked really well for him to have a rival. He had several throughout his career and he thrived on it. You know, that was never really my style.  I didn't ever feel like, 'Hey, you know, Dale's not here, now I've got to take over that role.' It was, We all have our personalities, our jobs, and let's do them the best that we can," Gordon said.

   "He helped build this sport to a level we're proud of and need to keep going. I miss that. We need it. We can't create it. It's going to happen. I mean, I think that's some of the excitement about Kyle (Busch), is he brings a uniqueness that people either love or hate. You get Kyle battling for the championship with somebody like Jimmie or myself, it's definitely going to stir that up."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Budweiser Shootout Lineup

33rd Annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona
Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 8:10 p.m. EST
Starting Lineup

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  2. Tony Stewart
  3. Carl Edwards
  4. Denny Hamlin
  5. Kasey Kahne
  6. Bobby Labonte
  7. Clint Bowyer
  8. Ryan Newman
  9. Derrike Cope
  10. Michael Waltrip
  11. Greg Biffle
  12. Jeff Gordon
  13. Juan Pablo Montoya
  14. Jamie McMurray
  15. Jeff Burton
  16. Kevin Conway
  17. Kurt Busch
  18. Kevin Harvick
  19. Matt Kenseth
  20. Mark Martin
  21. Kyle Busch
  22. Joey Logano
  23. Jimmie Johnson
  24. Regan Smith

NASCAR places Annett on probation for the entire 2011 season

    NASCAR on Friday announced it has placed Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett on probation for the entire year as a result of his drunk driving arrest early Sunday morning in Mooresville, N.C.

   According to a NASCAR release, in addition to steps already undertaken by Annett’s team, Rusty Wallace Inc., Annett will be evaluated by a certified substance abuse professional at NASCAR’s discretion and will be subject to random alcohol and drug testing.

   Annett was charged with DUI, failure to reduce speed, texting while driving and resisting an officer last week. The car he was driving rear-ended another car, which was stopped at a traffic light.

  According to the police report, Annett had a blood-alcohol level of .32 – four times the N.C. legal limit of .08.

   In the past, NASCAR has placed drivers involved in such incidents on probation. In 2009, NASCAR forced driver AJ Allmendinger to take a breathalyzer test before allowing him on the track following a DUI arrest.

   Annett’s team said it was instituting several sanctions of its own, including a zero-tolerance alcohol policy, completion of a comprehensive alcohol awareness program and a yearlong community service program.

   Annett’s first court date is March 18 in Iredell County, N.C.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who is Kevin Harvick afraid of?

   Budweiser, Kevin Harvick's new sponsor this season in the Sprint Cup Series, is hosting a roast of the driver on Tuesday night in Daytona Beach, Fla.

   Among those planning to speak about Harvick are fellow driver, Tony Stewart, Harvick's driver in the Truck series, Ron Hornaday, Harvick's driver in the Nationwide series, Elliott Sadler, Mike Dillon from Richard Childress Racing and Harvick's wife, DeLana.

   I asked Harvick during Thursday's Media Day activities who he was most afraid to hear speak at the roast. The answer may surprise you.

   "I am pretty much going into it knowing I am pretty much going to get slammed. The thing they all have to remember is, I get the last word," Harvick said. "So, as many good stories as they have on me, I have on them.

   "I know better than to completely demolish my wife, so she's probably going to get away with a lot more than the rest of them. Mike Dillon, I have no worries about whatsoever because I have the ultimate story on him.

   "I think Hornaday is the one that worries me the most. I've been around him so long. He's probably got ..."

   And then another reporter interjected, "Polaroids?"

   "Yeah, he's got stories, pictures," Harvick said. "The ones he can't remember, I'm sure Lindy (Hornaday's wife) does."

5-time champ gets new pit crew

   Jimmie Johnson may be a five-time Sprint Cup Series champion but his pit crew this season will be looking for its first championship.

   During Thursday's media day activities at Daytona International Speedway, Johnson said most of the people in the shop will be the same but his over-the-wall crew "will be much different."
   "We're in a very fortunate situation in making big changes that we have a very young crop of guys coming along and guys are earning their way on the team by participating in a series of competitions," Johnson said.
   Johnson said he witnessed the final day of competitions and was uncertain who exactly got all the positions.
   "What I saw was a very strong first and second-string group of guys," he said. "That's our plan - to have depth. If someone is having a bad day we can make changes and not lose anything on pit road."
   In last fall's race at Texas, Johnson's crew was a having problems on pit road and after his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, wrecked out of the race, Gordon's pit crew swapped places with Johnson's.
   The change remained intact for the remainder of the season and Johnson won his fifth consecutive Cup title.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Suspended driver Jeremy Mayfield issues public apology to his stepmom

   Suspended NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield issued a public written apology to his stepmother, Lisa Mayfield, on Tuesday, part of a settlement to a 2009 slander lawsuit she filed in Iredell County.

   “I have previously made statements to the press in which I accused Lisa Mayfield of either murdering my father, Terry Mayfield, or being involved in a conspiracy to murder him,” the signed and notarized statement from Mayfield reads.

   “Those statements were made in the heat of my emotional state at the time. I now retract those statements and apologize to Lisa for having made them.”

    Lisa Mayfield filed the suit in July 2009 seeking damages against her stepson for public comments he made in regard to his civil case against NASCAR.

   NASCAR had filed an affidavit in the case from Lisa Mayfield in which she said she had witnessed her stepson taking methamphetamine at least 30 times since 1998.

   In response to the filing, Jeremy Mayfield made public statements to several news organizations accusing his stepmother of murdering his father and for being paid by NASCAR for her testimony.

   Mayfield was suspended by NASCAR on May 9, 2009, after a random drug test came up positive for methamphetamine. He filed suit against NASCAR shortly thereafter for breach of contract, discrimination and defamation.

   In May 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen dismissed all claims by Jeremy Mayfield in his lawsuit against NASCAR.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where is the perspective?

   Something is wrong here.

   I hear lots of apologies from NASCAR driver Michael Annett over his arrest for drunken driving (among other charges) and promises of strict accountability from his Rusty Wallace Inc. team. And NASCAR promises to investigate as well.

   What I don't see is any real action.

   Annett was found to have a blood alcohol level of .32 following his arrest early Sunday morning. That's FOUR times the legal limit of .08 in North Carolina. This isn't a case of someone "having a few beers." This is a serious problem.

   Do some research. Lethal alcohol poisoning  - meaning enough to cause death in half the population - begins around .40. That means some people can die with a higher level and some with less. Annett was pushing the envelope to the edge here.

   And he wasn't just affecting himself. He had one passenger in his car and hit another car with four people inside. The total estimated damages of the two vehicles was placed at $10,000 by the Mooresville Police.

   So far, the most concrete information we have is from team owner Rusty Wallace, who assured NASCAR fans in an interview with ESPN that Annett would drive in the Feb. 19 season opener at Daytona.

   Are you kidding me? The LAST thing I want to be assured of is that Annett is going to get behind the wheel of another car, this time going 200 mph. Where is the perspective? The common sense?

   This young man has a problem that goes far beyond this accident. Get him help. It's not enough that he's sorry for what he did. He needs to think about everything that could have happened, but luckily didn't.

   Sometimes getting right back in the car is not the most important thing.


Speed TV will broadcast spring Richmond Nationwide race

   A combination of the NFL Draft and NBA Playoffs will send the April 29 NASCAR Nationwide Series race off ESPN and to Speed Channel this year.

   As I pointed out last week, a chart of TV start times for 2011 on had listed the network for that race as "TBD." NASCAR confirmed on Monday Speed will carry the race.

   “The Richmond race presented extraordinary scheduling challenges for us due to the NFL Draft and the NBA Playoffs," said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions. "We are happy that NASCAR fans will be well-served with the race airing on Speed, and we appreciate the cooperation of NASCAR and Speed in making this change.”

   Speed has long supported the Nationwide Series, having aired 44 practice and qualifying sessions just last season.

     “An exclusive NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Speed is a stout addition to our lineup,” said network president Hunter Nickell. “There is a real sense that the 2011 NASCAR season is building early momentum, so adding a Nationwide Series race to our full complement of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and all that we do from each track all season long adds to the excitement.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Does ESPN broadcast the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series or not?

   One of the things I thought was most helpful for the Nationwide Series in NASCAR's most recent TV contract was that one network - ESPN - would broadcast all of the series races. Yes, races are on different channels but you always know that if there is a Nationwide race, it's on an ESPN entity.

   Apparently, that certainty may end this season.

   On an internal TV chart posted on - probably inadvertently - the TV start and green-flag start times for all races in all three series - Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks - are listed.

   But under the network column for the spring Nationwide race at Richmond - and outlined in bright red - are the letters 'TBD.' Looking at the key to the chart, TBD means "Network To Be Determined." It is the only race on the entire schedule marked as such.

   Several sources indicated on Friday the problem may be due to a conflict that same weekend between the Nationwide race and the NFL draft. So, I sought out information to see whether another network other than ESPN was going to broadcast the race.

   The initial response from ESPN was that I should contact NASCAR because "NASCAR sets and announces the schedule." To say ESPN has no say in setting the start time or networks of where races will be shown is ridiculous, but that's another story.

   The response from NASCAR was "We are in the process of finalizing the broadcast schedule for the three national series and expect to announce it next week." OK, so what are the three charts on Somebody's wish list?

   And why could no one simply answer 'yes' or 'no' to my question which was, "Is ESPN broadcasting this event?"

   My guess is there is no straight answer because ESPN is not carrying the race, for whatever reason. Perhaps we'll find out why next week.

   And my other guess? Clear some space on the schedule Speed Channel.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Would a HANS device have saved Dale Earnhardt in 2001 Daytona wreck?

HANS Performance Products released a question-and-answer transcript on Tuesday with Jim Downing, co-founder of HPP, dealing with a number of safety issues surrounding the death of Dale Earnhardt in a last lap wreck in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Here are some of the most relevant questions.

   Q: If Dale Earnhardt Sr. had been wearing a HANS Device during his crash at Daytona in 2001, would that have prevented a fatal injury?
   Downing: "We have learned over the years at HANS Performance Products that re-constructing accidents is an extremely difficult and complex chore. We rely on the professional experience of others and in this case there were different opinions by experts about the cause of the fatal injuries. With that in mind, I believe that when Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car hit the wall and the belts from his safety harness were loaded by the impact that a HANS Device would have kept his head back. That likely would have produced a better outcome under the different scenarios that have been proposed by experts. This is what it seems like to me, but we don't really know for sure."

   Q: People may not be aware that the fatal crash of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in 1994 also influenced the development of the HANS Device. How did that come about?
   “The Senna crash started a really serious re-evaluation of safety in Formula 1 much as what happened later in American racing in 2001. This crash led to cooperation with Daimler Benz to get the HANS Device to fit into an F1 car and more independent testing which also confirmed that it worked. Through that development, we were able to reduce the size of the HANS Device and get a better fit for drivers in all types of cars, including stock cars.

   "The HANS Device would have been recognized as a safety breakthrough without the catalyst of the unfortunate crashes of Senna and Earnhardt Sr. It just would have taken longer. In America, the legacy of Earnhardt Sr. includes not only the HANS Device, but soft walls, better seats and cockpit safety and the ‘Car of Tomorrow.’ Even now when I think of Dale Earnhardt Sr. I think of safety instead of the macho driving style he was known for."

   Q: The high-speed crashes get a lot of attention, but isn't it accurate that low-speed crashes can also cause serious or fatal head and neck injuries?
   “There's a misconception that almost everyone has, that you're safe at 30 or 40 miles per hour. Earnhardt Sr.’s actual change of velocity caused by hitting the wall was 43 or 44 mph. To many observers it looked like a fairly routine wreck and they never expected the outcome. This happens on a regular basis on the street or in racing. A car’s speed may not be very high but if it stops suddenly you can be in real trouble.

   "It’s not how fast you go, but how quickly you stop. Trying to get that message across to short track racers and drag racers has been especially difficult. A short track driver can easily get turned into the wall by another car. If a drag racer has a mechanical problem and turns into the retaining wall, the vehicle can come to a very sudden stop. Both circle track and drag racing are relatively underserved when it comes to frontal head restraints."

The King is ready to move past football

   Richard "The King" Petty is ready for some racing.

   After all the problems the Richard Petty Motorsports organization went through at the end of the 2010 season, you might think Petty would like some time off. Not so, with a more streamlined RPM run by new ownership, Petty is ready to return to the track.

   “For the last three or four months it’s been football, football, football, so now that football is almost over, we’ve got you all out here to carry the ball forward into next season. I think everybody here and everybody I’ve talked to is really looking forward to a new season," Petty said.

   "It’s been a couple of months since we’ve raced and racers want to race all the time, so with your help to get the spectators and the fans and help us please those people, all of our sponsors that have helped us all this time, you do your job and we’ll try to do our job and work together and make all of this a lot bigger operation."

   Petty said the financial problems were a great distraction at the end of 2010 but he looks forward to a fresh start.

   "You’ve got to give our crew a lot of credit the last five or six races because they didn’t know if they were gonna have a job when they came in the next week or not, but they stepped it up – the drivers stepped it up and the whole crew stepped it up and we ended up with a pretty good season," he said.

   "Our sponsors stayed with us all the way through the winter and came back this spring and we’re getting ready for the new season. It was really good to have all of those people say, ‘OK, guys. Stay in there and keep digging and we’re gonna be ready for the next year.’ "