Kyle Larson to EGR

Confirmed – Kyle Larson will take over the 42 car next year. We discussed this on a recent episode of Track Schmak, and the conclusion was that as good as Kyle is, the team owners should have learned a lesson from Joey Logano about moving young hot-shot drivers into cup too soon.

Still, silly season has gotten pretty silly already, no reason it can’t continue. It also could make for a very interesting 2014, with a rumored Austin Dillon move to cup with RCR as well.

They’re breaking left and right

First, Denny Hamlin. Then, Tony Stewart. Then, Martin Truex. Now, Bobby Labonte.

These are all of the drivers who have broken bones this season, 2 while in a Cup car.

From nascar.com

Bobby Labonte will miss Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway after suffering three broken ribs in a bicycle accident Wednesday morning near his home in Trinity, N.C.

Labonte, the 2000 series champion in his 21st season of racing at NASCAR’s highest level, suffered no other injuries in the accident, according to a release from his marketing agency. He is being held in a local hospital overnight for observation, the release said.

He will be replaced in the 51 car by Mike Bliss.

Stewart not on board with fourth car expansion

From sbnation.com

“I didn’t have really a chance to talk to Tony about it at all since he wasn’t really talking to anybody,” Haas said. “So I kind of did this on my own, probably overstepped my authority a tick there. I’m not used to having too many authorities to work with; I’ve been pretty much on my own. I did realize that Tony might be a little bit upset about it.”

When finally told of the expansion plans Stewart was a “little upset” said Haas, who also acknowledged that he “bent a few rules” in his quest to sign Busch. Stewart even told his partner that he wasn’t against the idea of adding a fourth car but to wait until the infrastructure was in place at SHR to house four teams.

This is turning into a big mess.

Will they be ready to field 4 competitive cars next year? Maybe. Shop space has to be cleared and setup, teams have to be hired and start training, all sorts of other logistics need to ironed out.

Looks to be an interesting year coming up. And by “interesting”, I mean lots of conflict behind the scenes.

“My main goal here is to win races. I think Tony’s main goal is not only to win races but to run a successful business. I’m more interested in seeing the winning part of it. Maybe Tony is going to be more the businessman now.”

Them’s fightin’ words!

Speaking of a Busch brother

From yahoo sports

SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said Friday the team is moving forward in its pursuit of 2004 NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, who has been offered a seat in a new ride that would expand the organization to four cars next season. The push for Busch is being made by team co-owner Gene Haas, who Zipadelli said only wants Busch for the seat that apparently would be funded and sponsored by Haas’ CNC machine company Haas Automation, Inc.

I guess that answers the question of why Ryan Newman is losing his ride, and yet they’re still expanding the team.

It raises a few more questions, though. Why does Gene Haas really want Kurt Busch so much? And how long will Kurt Busch last at a team with all of those hot-heads? Will he be back to his normal, irritable self?

This is the photo that yahoo sports chose to run of Kurt Busch:

KurtBusch

Finally:

”Obviously, something’s changed,” Zipadelli said. ”Gene Haas is our partner and started this many years ago. He’s always liked Kurt. We talked about Kurt last year, putting him in the 39 (driven by Newman). Things just didn’t work out. It’s nothing Ryan did wrong. He’s done a great job. He’s a great guy, a heck of a driver.

Just not a ‘heck of a driver’ enough.

Speaking of Bristol – no hands burnout by Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch has been practicing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43ap3kylUyE

Top 12 drivers at Bristol

Jayski has an interesting chart of the top 12 drivers at Bristol since 2005. This list is based upon a whole host of factors, not just finishing position. Not surprised to see Kenseth in 3rd, very surprised to see Greg Biffle in 5th.

Top 12 Driver Ratings at Bristol:
#18-Kyle Busch…………………………. 103.0
#24-Jeff Gordon………………………… 100.6
#20-Matt Kenseth………………………… 99.9
#2-Brad Keselowski……………………. 99.0
#16-Greg Biffle……………………………. 95.8
#48-Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 93.8
#78-Kurt Busch…………………………… 92.8
#11-Denny Hamlin……………………….. 90.8
#29-Kevin Harvick……………………….. 90.3
#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr………………….. 87.9
#5-Kasey Kahne………………………… 86.8
#39-Ryan Newman………………………. 86.7

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (17 total) among active drivers at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.(NASCAR)

Celebrating the Road Course at Watkins Glen

This week, we celebrate the racing that is always exciting at a road course, talk about Max Papis and his successful subbing, Kyle Busch, and his dangerous celebrating, and a whole lot in between.

Picks for Michigan:
Coach: Dale Jr. (again)
Rob: Martin Truex Jr.

Get your TeeSpring Schmak Shirt here!

We just launched a t-shirt campaign on teespring.com.

Get ’em while you still can!

Also, for folks located in or around the Southern California central coast area, we will be hosting a pickup party (most likely Sunday September 15th).

Teespring shirt 8 2013

Danica Patrick – Sexism and Namecalling

UPDATE: Danica’s spotter tweeted back: “@robcooper22 @TrackSchmak that definitely did not happen. It wasn’t her fault AT ALL!! And I wouldn’t be saying that about her ever.”

I tweeted back: “Unfortunate 51’s spotter claimed it was “Danica’s spotter” who said it. Maybe someone else from the 10 team.”

“Or maybe the 51 spotter made it up so he could just call her names.”

His response:

“i am going to say he made it up. My team is smart enough not to open their mouths with comments like that.”

Interesting. I most definitely heard the “sometimes she’s just a dumb bitch” thing on AJ’s radio. Was that part of the “comedy” that I missed? Trying to be like the Onion (fake news reporting) of NASCAR?

When I listened in to Danica’s spotter on her channel, he was professional and supportive, which makes AJ’s spotter claim harder to believe.

FURTHER UPDATE:

Again from Danica’s spotter: “i just called the 51 spotter. He said that never came out of my mouth. It came out of his. Fix the lies now!!”

So the way I’m reading that, it means that the 51’s spotter admitted to saying what I have posted here, but that the 10 spotter was not involved in any way.

/UPDATE

As regular readers know, I was at New Hampshire this weekend for the Cup race. I posted my New Hampshire notes a few days ago (since deleted and moved here), but the Danica Patrick / 51 team spotter story deserves to be highlighted.

On lap 220 or so, after Danica and AJ Allmendinger wrecked, I switched over to AJ’s channel and this is what I heard:

51 team: “You wanna hear some comedy?”

AJ: “Sure”

51 team: “Danica’s spotter came over and apologized, said it was Danica’s fault, and that sometimes she’s just a dumb bitch.”

AJ: silence. “ok?”

51 team: “So anyway, that’s some mid race comedy for you.”

NOTE: the conversation listed above is approximate, as I only started notating it after it happened. The exact wording was most likely different, but the “comedy” and “sometimes a dumb bitch” bit were the parts that stuck in my mind.

AJ wasn’t laughing, no one else on the radio channel was laughing. Danica’s spotter denies saying anything of the sort to the 51 team, and I believe him. Sounds like the 51 crew was just being sexist douche bags.

Notes from New Hampshire

The Modifieds

I saw about half of the Modified race on Saturday, and the half I saw was great. Pushing, bumping, trading the lead every 2 or 3 laps, good cars going to the front but not running away from the field – it was pretty much everything you want in a race. I only wish I knew the drivers better, so that each move would have had more significance in my mind. Anyway, they were awesome.

I actually caught this race by accident, as I was at the track to see if I could get Keselowski to sign my Track Schmak shirt (he was the only driver that I knew was signing autographs). Anyway, I forgot that you have to buy tickets to get stuff autographed, and you had to get them at 8 am or something stupid like that. So no schmak autograph. But still there was “Schmak at the Track!”

Photo

The Nationwide Race

Terrible. Horrible. Easily the worst race I’ve ever seen in person. Kyle Busch dominated, got sent back by pit strategy or a mistake or something, spent 50 laps coming back to the front. Brian Vickers held him off for a while, but as soon as Busch got past, it was over. The only redeeming thing about the race was the caution with 2 to go, which lead to 3 Green-White-Checker attempts. 2 out of the 3 restarts, Kyle Busch got away easily. The second restart, Vickers kept up until entering turn 1. Then it was over.

I’ll have some more thoughts on how to improve the Nationwide racing on this week’s schmak (due out on Thursday-ish), but for now, that series is just hurting. Very little racing anywhere in the pack.

The Cup Race

I thought it was a great race. Of course, it had to be the hottest day in Loudon so far that week, and I got roasted in the stands. Note – I need to bring a neck towel and ice next time. No sunburn, but just a nice good old fashioned 4 hour roast in an oven.

There was some actual racing going on almost every lap, although track position was still king. Tony Stewart did not look like he had a top-5 capable car until he ended up in front. Likewise, Dale Jr. looked strong until bad pit strategy got him mired back.

Vickers – I was trying to follow him early, and he didn’t look that great. But once he got into 3rd position, his car started looking strong. From my vantage point, he was driving into the corner a little higher than Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart, and was driving with more intensity than either of them. Once he settled in a little and stopped over-driving the corner, his car started looking like a winning car.

The crowd also seemed to be rooting for him – when he passed Stewart, a cheer erupted. When he passed Busch for the lead, an even bigger cheer erupted. Leaving the track, I talked with some fans who said they felt good about Vickers winning, since he was an underdog and was back on a positive career path.

So it was a popular win.

Newman

In case you haven’t heard it, here is a link to Kyle Busch calling Newman a big ogre.

Ryan Newman had a so so day going, until about a lap before he was wrecked. He had stayed out to gain track position, and was on older tires on an already mediocre car, so he was kind of a road block. Kyle Busch kind of roughed him up when passing, so the next corner, Newman drove in deep trying to get back to Kyle Busch. Keselowski then took advantage and slid a little high off the corner while Newman chopped down. There was more contact, and Newman gave Keselowski a shot on the exit of the corner, causing Keselowski to almost spin. Then, 1 lap later, Kurt Busch just plain over drove the corner. I know the TV replay shows Kenseth hitting him or nearly hitting him, but from my angle, Kurt was already drifting up the track into Newman by the time Kenseth had anything to do with it.

You can read the whole war of words between Newman and Kyle Busch here.

Newman kind of proved Kyle Busch’s point, saying:

I’m sure if I rearrange his face I might fix it

and ended his statement with:

It seems like after his comment about me not having a ride it seems like he has way more to lose than I do.

Threats and retribution. Sounds like a frustrated ogre.

Overall Race Rating

This was one of the better Cup races I’ve seen in person. Good on ya’ NASCAR.

Danica Patrick

After our last Schmak in which we took Kyle Petty to task for saying that Danica is not a racer, I felt I had to follow her race a little more closely than normal. Most of the TV coverage provides superficial analysis (at best) of her racing, and while I’m glad it’s not the Danica-cam all-the-time style coverage that happened when she first entered the series, the current reporting doesn’t provide any depth at all.

By my observation, she is definitely racing. She passed two cars on the outside on the restart, and raced with the 7 car, 93 car, 83 car, and made passes. In particular, she raced the 83 of David Reutimann for 30 laps straight. She would get a run off of 2, run side by side down the backstretch, have to back off the entry of 3 in order to run side by side, and couldn’t get back to the gas quick enough to pass David. So she’d have to fall in line, stalk, diamond the corner to get a run off, run side by side, and then keep the car low while David chopped her on the exit.

She was frustrated on the radio, mildly cussing at Reutimann a few times when he diamonded the corner on the exit, but she never overdrove the car, never touched Reutimann (as far as I could see). She acknowledged that she needed to get better at keeping speed while trying to pass, but she was definitely trying, and definitely racing. Kyle Petty is dead wrong about her not being a racer.

USA today profiles Mark Martin

USA Today had a good article about Mark Martin, and the sport of NASCAR in general.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/2013/07/02/mark-martin-daytona-nascar-sprint-cup/2484919/

At Darlington in ’83, I finished third and there were only three cars on the lead lap. Fans today would lose their minds if that happened!

Martin says TV deals “accelerated everything. That sent the sport through the roof, but we had to sell ourselves so strong that it created unrealistic expectations. We couldn’t deliver that strong all the time, and it was a vicious cycle: We had to outperform everything we’d done before.

Probably the most insightful quote of the article.

But then there’s this:

Martin, the ageless NASCAR driver

More like “aged”. Dude looks old.

Silly Season starting slowly

Hints and rumors of driver moves have picked up in recent weeks, and this article at sbnation takes a look at it.

Basically, it comes down to Newman and Kurt Busch swapping rides, and everyone else staying where they are, with Vickers taking over the 55 when Mark Martin finally fully retires.

It seems like there are a lot of moves that could (and perhaps should) be made, but not a lot of places to go.

We’re back in the iTunes store

Migrating from the old feed to the new feed broke something for the iTunes store. After trying here and there to fix it for the better part of a month, I wrote to iTunes support to see if we could get our podcast listing fixed in the iTunes podcast store. A few exchanges later, I was told “podcast has been fixed, please allow 2-3 days”. So I did, checking every day for the next 9 (!) days.

Still not fixed.

I wrote back and politely asked them to recheck, at which point I received a “hello, we’re seeing it live here” email.

So I did everything I normally do to check for the feed, and lo-and-behold, it is now live again in the iTunes store.

So I guess somebody forgot to flip the “go live now” switch, but the point is that we’re back in the iTunes store.

My podcatcher app still can’t find us via search, but I imagine that will just take a couple more days to propagate through whatever search database they are using.

In the meantime, if you are still not subscribed, find us here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/track-schmak/id433840605?mt=2

Road course extravoganza

For those who love road courses (or at least tolerate them), this is a banner weekend for NASCAR. Cup is at Sonoma, and Nationwide at Road America (yes, “America”, not Atlanta. I checked).

What’s new is the cup qualifying format. This is the same format that Nationwide had used in the past.

In summary:

  • Cars will be assigned to one of five or six groups based on final practice speeds, slowest to fastest.
  • Each qualifying group will be on-track for a set period of time, determined by the Series Director, and each car likely will receive three laps at full speed.
  • A car’s best lap time during its session will be the qualifying lap time of record.
  • A group’s time begins when the first car receives the green flag at the start/finish line.

Qualifying for Nationwide starts Saturday at 9:05 am Pacific on ESPN2.

Qualifying for Cup starts Saturday at 11:05 am Pacific on SPEED.

The Nationwide race then starts Saturday at 2 pm Pacific on ESPN.

The Cup race starts Sunday at noon Pacific, on TNT.

4 events, four different channels. NASCAR really needs to whittle it down some.

Is Kenseth a good pick for Sonoma?

Nascar.com asks the question in a headline:

KensethBettridge

Short answer: NO!

Longer answer: see Betteridge’s law of headlines.

Longest answer: if the answer to the headline question is “yes”, then the question isn’t written. A more declarative sentence like “Kenseth is a surprisingly good pick for Sonoma” or “You may be surprised by who we pick for Sonoma” is generally written. But I watched the stupid video anyway, and of course, they called Kenseth a fantasy dud, with Sonoma being his worst track.

So there you go, I just saved 5 minutes of your life. Also, now you don’t have to hear someone say “…four straight top-7 finishes”. Ridiculous.

Villeneuve at Sonoma

“We are very happy to have Jacques Villeneuve representing our eyewear in the race at Sonoma Raceway,” said Robert Cooper, Racing Director for TAG Heuer Eyewear.

Three things:

1) Look out, Danica!

2) Rob, I didn’t know you had a side job.

3) That 51 car is going to be in even worse shape than when Bobby Labonte drove it.

Driver Swap

Last week, JTG Daugherty racing announced that they hired AJ Allmendinger to replace Bobby Labonte in the #47 Toyota for 4 or so races.

“We’ve kind of gone backward the last three years,” co-owner Brad Daugherty said. “We can’t exactly put a finger on it without being able to benchmark it against a second team. It’s really hard. He’s available, so we thought we’d stick him in there to see if he has a different perspective on what we’re doing and what we’re not doing.”

I don’t really see how Allmendinger, with his limited stock car experience, is going to provide better feedback than Labonte. Maybe “different” is all they were looking for. Unless they just got tired of mowing the grass.

Anyway, this week Labonte announced that he will now drive the #51 Chevy that Allmendinger recently vacated. So at least he’ll keep his streak of 703 consecutive starts alive.

It’ll be interesting to see who runs better during the races, and who actually manages to put together some decent finishes.

Jason Leffler

Quotes from the frontstretch.com

Who knows why, but all of a sudden we’re starting to see drivers passing away again. Dan Wheldon is killed in the IndyCar season finale in 2011. Tyler Morr dies after a crash at Auburndale in May 2012. Jeff Osborn lost his life in May 2012 as well. Tyler Wolf passes away at Calistoga in October 2012.

Jason Leffler was a racer. He’d race a Cup car or a motorized scooter. Like any driver, he had an ego, but he was also one of the nicest guys you could meet in the garage. He wore his hair the same way for years because his sponsor Great Clips wanted him to. He had some good rides and he had some crappy rides. He took what he could get because he loved to race. He only had three wins in the national touring series of NASCAR but he always ran like a sprint car driver, wide open and on the edge.

Jason Leffler is a sad reminder that racing will always be dangerous despite our best efforts. See the fans that were injured this year at Daytona and Charlotte.

Leffler can also serve as a reminder to be the best person you can be right now, because you don’t always get to chose your legacy.

Party Pooper in the Poconos

It’s here!

Almost two days earlier than last week.

A pretty boring race, but TNT made it somewhat bearable.

Picks for next week:

Coach: Dale Jr.
Rob: Greg Biffle.

Could have used a different picture

So Jeb Burton got his first truck win. But they could have picked a picture that didn’t highlight the empty stands.

Burton win empty stands