Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Heart of NASCAR

DAYTONA–For many people it’s just a destination for vacation. It’s a beach along the eastern seaboard of Florida. For some of us it’s a vacation, a super bowl and an experience of a lifetime that has nothing to do with the beach that lies only a few miles away. It’s all about Daytona International Speedway.
I have been to Daytona five times in my life. Once as an exuberant three year old that only thought of swimming. In the pool or the ocean there was no difference. The next time would be twenty nine years later (2006) when Jimmie Johnson won his first Daytona 500. The two times was for another 500 (2009, Matt Kenseth) and two Coke Zero events (2009, Tony Stewart and 2010, Kevin Harvick). Every time the show was in town and the speedway itself was just the venue that held it. I’m not saying I didn’t get the magic of the place, I did. What I’m trying to say is it wasn’t until my visit today that the place got to stand in the spotlight by itself. There was nothing, no drivers, feuds, vendors, commentators that distracted me.
I didn’t attend a race this year in Daytona. My home state of Kentucky was lucky enough to get a date in July a week after the Coke Zero. With the economy being what it is and me being a proud Kentuckian I decided to go to that race. I won’t get into the logistical nightmare Kentucky was though, that’s for another post. When my family decided to take vacation this year Florida was the natural choice. Being the race fan I am I searched the web to see if anything racing was going on. Unfortunately there wasn’t but I found out there was a tour of the speedway. I spoke with my mom who was also going on the trip and we decided to go.
Now my mom has been on the tour before, remember she is the all things Nascar lady, but hadn’t been to the driver’s meeting room or the press box. We got to the track about noon and had just missed the last tour and had to wait for the one o’clock tour. We took the time to visit the gift shop. Mom, a big #24 fan was easily able to find a shirt. I on the other hand, had less luck. While they did have merchandise of my favorite driver (Kevin Harvick), it wasn’t anything that appealed to me and the other driver’s shirt I wanted (#33 Clint Bowyer) was limited to one shirt that wasn’t available in my size. I did find a cup I liked and purchased but that was it.
After shopping we went and waited for the tour to begin. We met our tour guy, John, and let me tell you the guy was awesome. He was very friendly and knowledgeable of all things NASCAR and Daytona. Once the tour began I was excited. I knew I was a part of something here. We made our way around the track, learning a lot of interesting tidbits from John. Some places such as the fan zone and garage areas I was already familiar with because of my previous attendance. What really caught my attention was the access to the driver’s meeting room and the press box. These two areas are worth the price of admission alone.
The driver’s meeting room is a typical convention type meeting room. There is a podium on a raised stage facing row upon row of chairs with blue and yellow stickers. There is a reason for the stickers and I’ll let you figure it out on your own what they mean. What makes the room special is the pictures on the walls, showing the history of Daytona. Dork that I am I got up on the stage and for a second got to imagine that I was the one who got to look out at these athletes and tell them what that the rules were. Then I got silly and made the rule, “Anyone gets in the #29’s way is going to get a 1 lap penalty. Move out of the way and let the #29 to the front.” If only I was the President, right Kevin?
The other place that amazed me was the press room. Going twelve stories above the speedway and getting to see the whole track is something everyone needs to do. You can see the Daytona in all of its glory and she is beautiful! As I stood there looking I I’m sorry to say that I kind of tuned John out. I was trying to take it all in and there were a few images that popped into my mind. The 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Sr. hitting the wall on the final lap. What did it look like from up here? And DW calling the race as “Mikey” won. I was looking out at the same view…today though the view was different…it was beautiful…

Monday, August 22, 2011

The How & Why Of Becoming A NASCAR Fan

I didn’t become a Nascar fan until February of 2003. Prior to that time I was one of those people that cracked jokes. You know the type you probably have a friend or family member that has said one or more of the following comments:

1. Why do you watch car drive in a circle?
2. Indy Car is real racing.
3. Stock car racing is only for rednecks.
4. Drivers aren’t real athletes.

I was completely obnoxious and ignorant of the complexities of the sport I now love. For that I apologize.

While I’m being honest here, I became a fan in part because of my family. I had moved half way across the country in October 1999. I was in a new city and state (San Antonio, TX) and literally knew two people. I spent a year there and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but I missed my family. Upon my return in late 2000 to my surprise they had gotten into this sport called Nascar. I’m serious, my parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. even my Mamaw. Every time we got together all I heard was trash talking about whose driver was the best. During the 2001 season my family had their second fantasy league. There was no money on the line—but you wouldn’t know it to see these people cheer on their teams.

I wanted into this club. I talked to my dad and told him that I wanted to be in on the fantasy team. He was surprised but said okay. In February 2003 I got the call that we we’re having a family meeting on Sunday to pick our teams. Remember, I had very little knowledge on Nascar so I spend Saturday researching the sport and it’s stars. When I got to my parents house the next day…I was in over my head. Our league was different then most I had read up on. We had ten people in the league and each person got to pick their favorite driver as their primary. As the new girl I was odd man out as such powerhouse or favorite drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., & Tony Stewart were already taken. In our league if you’re in the league no one can take your driver. I was screwed; these were the drivers I knew anything about.

Thankfully my mom came to my rescue. She knows as much about the sport as any man I’ve ever met. She took me into the other room and said, “Missy, I’ve got the driver for you.”
 was like okay…who? Kevin Harvick. I was like “Who?”

She said trust me, this guy is up and coming.

I still wasn’t sure.

He’s GOING to win races, she told me. I finally gave in and said okay.

Well you know what they say…Mom was right…not only am I a Kevin Harvick fan…I’m a RCR girl….

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ambrose Tastes Victory & Watkins Glen Dust Up

Watkins Glen

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of the road courses. However I give props to Watkins Glen this year. The racing all day long was intense, filled with hard licks and boiling tempers. In the end Marcos Ambrose, the former Australian V8 Supercar champion, was able to put Richard Petty Motorsports back in victory lane.

Marcos Ambrose is a likeable driver whose Nascar experience has been rocky at best. To see him finally get that elusive victory was the feel good story of the day. Richard Petty Motorsports was about two weeks from closing the doors just last year. The company, like a few other non-powerhouse teams, had been hurt the mixture of a bad economy, poor management and lackluster finishes. Today the company got to shine and show that midlevel organizations can still compete. My hope is that media outlets will give Ambrose more than a quick shout out on this win, but I doubt it.

The real story of today’s race will be the hard hits. Denny Hamlin hit the wall after a failure of some kind. On the last lap Boris Said got into David Ragan, sending him into the wall and making David Reuitmann an innocent flipping bystander. These guys deserve the attention that they will get. Millions of Nascar fans, held their breaths, as these cars came to a stop and window nets came down. This writer was lucky enough or unlucky because she had to work the day job, to watch the race hours after the event. I knew going in, via twitter reports, of what happened and that all drivers involved were okay. It still took my breath away to watch them though.

Now what will lead on outlets like ESPN, CNN, etc. are the accidents and the Said/Biffle incident after the race. From what I’ve been able to put together is that Biffle saw what happened with Ragan and apparently took one or more swings at Boris in the garage area. Boris not taking too kindly to it got out of his car and was restrained from going after the Biff. Said then went on the air and said that he was going to handle things personally off the track. Whether that actually happens is debatable and something that we will find out in the future if it will come to fruition. If something does happen though you can guarantee it will be on the news because…if it bleeds, it leads.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To Chase or Not to Chase

Over the course of the Nascar regular season I have heard people with a lot more knowledge on the Chase than me talk about the changes this season. Naysayers are bemoaning these changes. Some go as far as to say that it cheapens the sport. I however think it’s just what the sport needs.

For those of you who do not know the Chase consist of the top 10 drivers in the points standings after the regular season and the next two drivers (from 11th to 20th in the points) with the most victories.

The Chase which was implemented, after Matt Kenseth’s rather uneventful championship season in 2003 has not been perfect by any means but I believe the changes made this year are steps in the right direction. There are several reasons for these changes. One has been old 5 Time himself. Jimmie Johnson has been the man since the 2006 Daytona 500. He has won an amazing amount of races and to borrow his phrase “turned chicken sh** into chicken salad” more times than his haters would like to recall. So some say change the format to even it out. But remember my friends in the words of the Nature Boy Ric Flair, “In order to be the Man, you’ve got to beat the Man.” Many have tried to beat the 48 and since the Chase inception only two has actually done it (Kurt Busch 2004, Tony Stewart 2005).

The second and the biggest reason for change was Jamie Mac’s winning the two biggest races of the year and not making the post season playoff because the team lacked consistency. There were other guys without a win but with the consistency (Bowyer, J.Gordon, Edwards, Kenseth & Burton). In a Chase where wins are suppose to be more important how could the rules not be changed to reward wins?

I really like the changes this year. I feel that the additions of the wildcards or “at large bids” (excuse the basketball terms) give new blood to the chase. When you think of college basketball you think of the powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas. They are the teams that find ways to win and have the hardware to prove it. There are then the mid-listers, teams that have had success like Louisville, Florida, Georgetown but have not reached dynasty status yet. Then there are the teams no one has ever heard of and during the madness of March get named Cinderella and go dancing. They may not win the championship but they do affect the game.

The Powerhouse teams of Nascar have to be Johnson, Gordon, & Stewart. They know what it’s like to hold that trophy up at season’s end. The mid list consist of guys like Harvick, Edwards, both Ku. & Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Earnhardt (even winless he remains here mainly because of popularity).

With the two wildcards (aka Cinderellas) the battle alone to get the wins and be in the top 20 has made the racing this year some of the best I’ve seen. Whoever manages to actually get the two coveted slots is not going to simply be happy to be included. They are going to be in it to win it. These guys have everything to win and nothing to lose by pushing their car to the limit. Come chase time I would much rather watch these guys, who know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. And guess what? With 43 guys, and 10 races…maybe the slipper will fit Cinderella someday…

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Training Days

I could tell you when it's hot stay home in the air conditioning and wait for the cool summer evenings to train. I could also tell you when it's cold and rainy tell you to wait for the universal thermostat to set on the warm dry days October and November will sometimes yield. But then you'd know I was full of, well you'd know what I'd be full of.

But this is the tale I have to tell. Yesterday in Shephersdville, KY it was considerably cooler than it has been. I've been cooped up inside because of 115 degree heat index temperatures. That's just too much for anyone. But it was humid in the upper eighties yesterday and I decided I could take my training outdoors.

I decided I would run LOL! After eating in the afternoon! Broke every single one of my rules. Start slowly then taper off, that's my rule. Don't exercise directly after eating. I'm not ready to run, unless you call laying me on my side and rolling me down the hill running. I walk. Fast, slow in between. I walk, therefore, well therefor I can participate in the Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon. As much as the pizza, beer, hot cocoa and coffee appeal to me I'm pretty sure it will all be gone by the time I get to the finish line. I've got four hours to finish the race. The only people there will probably be my dad and fellow blogger Missy Goodman.

I'll be sure to tell the race director I'm slow as molasses the closer to November 12th we get. For those among you who are runners or walkers and are looking for a way to challenge yourself and enjoy the hospitality of a great town you should checkout the race. Or if you want to cheer me on leave a comment here and the most orginal or inspring quote will receive a box of G2 Sports Mix. And by leaving a comment you're welcome use the discount code: X8V28VN2C for the Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Introducing My NASCAR Blogger Missy Goodman!

 I will be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of Pocono Raceway. I applaud its efforts to go green and think the “tricky triangle” is an interesting track but it holds nothing of interest for me. When I hear that Nascar is at Pocono I’m like okay where do we go next.

It might be because I’m a southern girl, born and raised. To me Nascar is drafting at Daytona, the big one at Talladega, or bumping and banging at Bristol. All are southern tracks that require a lot of talent and even more luck. Daytona is the motherland. Every driver dreams of winning her. The home of the Super Bowl every year and in my opinion is Nascar. I would love to see Daytona be a part of the chase and heck let’s switch Homestead with Daytona’s July event and make it the last race of the season. Think of the ratings…do you hear me Nascar?

But back to Pocono, the racing was okay today. The long rain delay probably hurt ratings, because unless you’re a super fan like me, you might have turned the channel. When the engines fired back up I was like okay let’s go racing. There’s only so many laps left, possible rain on the way. It’s time to get racing…really never happened. The racing between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson was fun and the interviews afterwards were
highly entertaining but the racing as a whole lacked something.

That is not to take anything away from the winner. Brad Keselowski’s victory was a big deal. Like the man or not, he is a racer and is the future of Penske racing. I know if my ankle looked like a grapefruit I would have spent the weekend on the sofa eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself. The man is to be congratulated on a job well done.

 However at the end of the day I’m still asking, so where are we racing next week?

Missy Goodman aka Nascardaddysgrl