Posted on: September 15, 2010 2:09 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2010 3:48 pm

2010 Chase predictions from 1st to 12th

With the start of the Chase just days away, it's prediction time again. Pete Pistone gave his predictions as part of our Chase driver profiles and here's my take on how the season winds up come November.

1. Jimmie Johnson -- Here was my comment from the preseason Power Rankings: Is there any reason to pick against him other than the belief that the law of averages eventually has to catch up to him?

The 48 team showed a bit of inconsistency during the regular season, but they were still quite strong, picking up five victories. The tracks still set up well for Johnson and I think a fifth consecutive title is well within his grasp.

2. Kevin Harvick -- He has been the most consistent driver all season, leading the series with 17 top 10s and 22 top 15 finishes. There's no reason to believe that won't continue in the Chase, would should keep him in the hunt throught.

The thing that could hurt Harvick and the No. 29 team is qualifying, which has been poor most of the season. It forces them to constantly fight from behind which can prove costly when it comes to bonus points because he's out of position to lead laps.

Consider Johnson leads the series with a qualifying average of 7.3. He also leads the series in bonus points with 120. Harvick on the other hand ranks 21st in qualifying average at 19.0. He gained 65 bonus points in the regular season.

3. Denny Hamlin -- He came into the season as the driver many pegged as the one who could finally end Johnson's reign as champion. He's a proven winner, snagging six victories during the regular season -- which puts him at the top of the standings for the first time in his career with the Chase reset -- but does he have the consistency?

Over the past six races he has three top fives and three finishes of 34th or worse, including a blown engine. I'm not sure the 11 team can put together 10 straight races together without a couple of hiccups -- be it a parts failure or just missing the set up.

4. Kyle Busch -- He's in the same boat as his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin. He may just be the most talented driver in the series, but for whatever reason, has not been able to find the consistency in the Cup Series.

As I noted in this week's Power Rankings, Busch's average finish over the final 10 races is 18.4. The average finish of a Chase champion over the final 10 races is 7.4. That's a huge leap he has to make. He rides a streak of three consecutive top fives into the Chase.

5. Carl Edwards -- Still trying to get back to Victory Lane, but he has been the most consistent driver in the series since July, rolling to five top fives and eight top 10s in nine races heading into the Chase.

He has a chance to get off to a fast start with Dover, Kansas and California among his better tracks. Don't sleep on the 99 team, he may just pull of the upset.

6. Tony Stewart -- He followed up his win at Atlanta with a dissapointing 16th-place effort at Richmond, but he feels the team is in much better shape than it was entering the Chase last season.

In the past 15 races, Stewart has finished outside the top 10 just four times (though twice in the past three races). A third career Cup championship is not out of the realm of possibility this season.

7. Jeff Gordon -- He had that one stretch in June and July where he ran off five consecutive top fives, but he has been ordinary since, with just two top 10s in the seven races heading into the Chase.

I just don't know which 24 team is going to show up in the Chase, but I'm leaning toward the latter.

8. Greg Biffle -- He's not exactly heading into the Chase on a high note with finishes of 36th and 32nd the past couple of races, though I don't feel that's a trend that's going to continue.

He had just five top fives during the regular season and I don't expect that he's going to add many more to that total over the final 10 races. He'll have some strong runs here and there, but overall, I haven't seen anything from the 16 team to make me believe they can take the title.

9. Jeff Burton -- I like his attitude heading into the Chase. At his age, he knows his window of opportunity is closing fast. I just don't know if the 31 team has what it takes.

He and his team have been mistake prone all season and it probably cost him a chance at a couple of wins. Mistakes during the Chase won't just cost him a win, it'll cost him the title.

10. Kurt Busch -- He had the second most top 10s among Chase drivers, yet he finished 10th in the regular-season standings. That speaks to the No. 2 team's inconsistency.

Crew chief Steve Addington has the same issue when he was crew chief for Kyle Busch. From week to week you just never know what your were going to get from him and his driver. I expect that trend will continue here.

11. Clint Bowyer -- Some of you might recall that I was pretty high on Bowyer entering the season, but I'll admit that despite making the Chase he has been somewhat of a disappointment.

He does enter the Chase with some momentum, finishing top 10 in three consecutive races for the first time since the first three races of the season. But can the 33 team keep it up or will it revert to regular season form that saw him nearly miss the Chase?

His four top fives are the fewest of any Chase driver.

12. Matt Kenseth -- Of all the drivers in the Chase, he's the only one where I'd be truly shocked if he wound up taking the title.

There is nothing he or the No. 17 have done this season to make me believe he has any chance of taking the title. The season started well enough, with five consecutive top fives, but in the 21 races that have followed he has added just five more.

The team's strength has been avoiding bad finishes. While Kenseth has just 10 top 10s (three less than any other Chase driver), he has 19 top 15s (third most among Chase drivers). He finished outside the top 20 just twice.


Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: June 21, 2010 11:34 am

NASCAR racing in 3D on its way

Ever wanted to watch a NASCAR race in 3D? Well, if you have the right equipment, you'll have the opportunity for this year's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on July 3.

NASCAR Media Group is offering a 3D presentation of the race through DirecTV as well as TNT RaceBuddy on NASCAR.com (NASCAR.COM/RaceBuddy3D).

The catch is that you need a 3D TV or PC display with matching 3D glasses. I do not have a 3D TV and my computer is not up to snuff either, so I will not be able to check it out. But I do like how NASCAR and its partners are trying to push the envelope.

Press release follows:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 21, 2010) – NASCAR Media Group, a media, marketing and entertainment company, and Turner Sports, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., announced today that NASCAR’s first foray into 3D programming will take place on July 3, 2010 with a special presentation of the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola (TNT, 7:30 p.m. ET). The 3D production, NASCAR’s first ever, will be made available through TNT RaceBuddy on NASCAR.COM (NASCAR.COM/RaceBuddy3D) as well as through DIRECTV, and will complement a special television presentation on TNT, highlighted by the network’s groundbreaking signature Wide Open format.

NASCAR.COM will feature 3D feeds for the Daytona race in addition to the mosaic of HD-quality complementary unique camera angles available on TNT RaceBuddy on NASCAR.COM (NASCAR.COM/RaceBuddy) throughout the six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races televised on TNT. Turner, which manages NASCAR.COM, will also make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona International Speedway available in 3D through DIRECTV. In order to experience the event in 3D, viewers will need a 3D TV or PC display with matching 3D glasses. Fans can go to www.nascar.com/racebuddy3D to get more information about the hardware and software used to view the 3D production online.

“One of our goals here at NASCAR is to continuously explore ways to improve the viewing experience for our fans,” said Jay Abraham, chief operating officer of NASCAR Media Group. “Offering the Coke Zero 400 in 3D on NASCAR.COM and select television distributors is a great example of that consistent exploration. Our fans have been asking us about 3D for several months, so we’re excited to deliver that to them for the first time ever in what will likely change how NASCAR is consumed moving forward.”

The 3D production on NASCAR.COM and DIRECTV will feature two custom racing feeds produced specifically for 3D. The first will provide a unique look at the racing action from strategically placed cameras around the track designed to maximize the effect of 3D. The second stream will bring the mayhem of pit row into the third dimension creating a one-of-a-kind visual experience.

“At Turner Sports we pride ourselves on innovation through testing, learning and exploring new products and technologies that can better serve our audiences on a multitude of platforms,” said Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports executive vice president and COO. “We see this as an opportunity to showcase our marquee primetime race in Daytona through our signature Wide Open format on TNT, as well as to learn more about 3D through this unique presentation online at NASCAR.COM and through DIRECTV.”


Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 21, 2010 11:19 am
Edited on: May 21, 2010 11:22 am

Not your ordinary NASCAR story/video

As sports fans were often so focused on the results and debating who's best, who's right and who's wrong; I think some forget these games/matches/races are actually supposed to be fun and entertaining. It's outside the field/court/track where the real problems reside.

So I found it quite interesting the Inside NASCAR segment we're running on Jeff Kerr, a veteran NASCAR crew man. I don't know how many of you are familiar with his story, but I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Jeff Kerr, NASCAR
Posted on: December 16, 2009 1:27 pm

I had a dream ...

And I felt compelled to share with y'all (especially the NASCAR-philes out there) because it was such a strange dream to be having at all let alone mid-December.

Anyhow, my dream entailed David Reutimann winning the 2010 Daytona Truck race in February. And he won because it was shortened by rain. For some reason the race was taking place during the day (the race is typically run on Friday night), which leads me to believe rain must have moved it from Friday. He was driving a truck sponsored by Micosukee (I didn't catch a number) and for some reason Kevin Harvick was congratulating him.

I thought maybe there might be something prophetic about it, but the pieces just don't seem to align with what we currently know about the parties involved to make it actually come to be. For instance, Reutimann doesn't drive in the truck series and why would Harvick be happy about it?

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: September 16, 2009 5:21 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2009 11:02 pm

Chase predictions from 1st to 12th

In case you haven't seen it, Pete Pistone gave his full field Chase predictions as part of our Chase driver profiles package.

Well, I want to get in on the fun, so here's my predictions on how the final 12 shake out.

1. Jimmie Johnson -- I think the 48 team's recent struggles of late are misleading. He took a couple of disappointing finishes in races that he dominated because of miscues or bad pit decisions. I don't think you'll see 48 team making those same mistake during. As I said in this week's Feud, I expect they'll pick up at least three wins during the Chase.

2. Denny Hamlin -- The 11 team has really gotten it's act together over the past couple of months and I expect he'll continue his run of top level consistency throughout the Chase and give Johnson a run for his money. 

3. Mark Martin -- There's no doubt he has the equipment to capture that elusive championship this year, but I can't help but think he's going to get snakebit a couple of times during these final 10. I'm already envisioning his pessimistic speech following a big wreck at Talladega.

4. Jeff Gordon -- It's weird. He had a strong regular season -- his 12 top fives in the first 26 races were second most behind Tony Stewart -- but it seems a lot of people are forgetting him in favor of Johnson, Martin and Tony Stewart. He's going to be in the thick of the hunt for a fifth title.

5. Tony Stewart -- I'm a big more concerned with his performance down than stretch than I am with Johnson's. The 48 team has proven what it can do under pressure. The 14 team is still an unknown. I think he'll be good during the Chase, but not up to the same performance level he was at during the summer.

6. Brian Vickers -- The 83 team is riding similar momentum to that of Hamlin's 11 team. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he picked up a couple of wins during the Chase. But the rest of the time it will be top 15s intermingled with a few top 10s, which I don't think will keep him up in the championship mix.

7. Carl Edwards -- He was my preseason pick to end Johnson's reign as champion, but his regular season didn't instill much confidence in me. Still, I've made him my sleeper. Winless so far in 2009, there are several tracks at which I think he could end that skid -- Dover, Carlifornia, Charlotte, Texas come to mind. However, I don't think the 99 team will find that consistency that had eluded them all year.

8. Juan Pablo Montoya -- The goal for this year was to make the Chase and the 42 team accomplished that goal, reining in Montoya's aggressiveness -- no DNFs after experiencing nine a year ago. How aggressive will they allow him to be in the Chase, and will it necessarily lead to a uptick in production? If they take the leash off, it could just lead to a rash of wrecked cars. If they stay the course, a middle of the pack finish in the Chase seems about right.

9. Ryan Newman -- The 39 team seems to have climbed out of that midseson malaise that had them sweating out their Chase position. But they haven't displayed enough strength or consistency to believe they're huge title threat.

10. Kurt Busch -- He has yet to put more than three consecutive top 10 finishes together this year (and that happened just once). The announced departure of crew chief Pat Tryson doesn't seem to be sitting too well. A couple of bad runs and this team could go in the tank.

11. Kasey Kahne -- The merger with Yates and impending switch to Ford, with whom Kahne doesn't have a great relationship, could prove to be a championship killing distraction. His 10 top 10s during the regular season were the fewest of anbody to make the Chase.

12. Greg Biffle -- Statistically, he's having a season comparable to that of Martin in terms of top fives, top 10s, etc. The key difference is the four victories Martin picked up vs. none for Biffle and I don't see that skid ending during the Chase, even as the defending champion of the first two events.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: September 11, 2009 12:51 pm

Observations on the Yates/RPM merger

So yesterday's news regarding the merger of Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing came as quite a surprise. It's rare that such big news sneaks up on the NASCAR media like it did on Thursday. Usually there's a leak somewhere resulting in rumors around the garage. Not since Kurt Busch left Roush Racing for Penske Racing have I been like, "Woah, where did that come from?"

Now I'm not really surprised by the actual news. It's no secret that RPM and Yates were both hurting financially. My surprise was that they were able to keep it hush-hush that they were working on a deal.

Considering the two teams' financial situations and the marketplace, I can't find any fault with the merger. Seems like a good idea. But it does mean two fewer rides available in a shrinking Cup field.

Consider that the 2010 version of RPM was once three distinct organizations that -- in a thriving economy -- would likely be fielding four teams each. So that's up to eight rides off the market right there.

Here are some other observations on the merger:

  • Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard were announced as the drivers, leaving Reed Sorenson as the odd man out.
  • The merger reunites Sadler with the Yates family, though I don't know if this will necessarily be a happy reunion, even though Sadler captured two wins while driving for Robert Yates Racing.
  • Sadler left RYR midway through the 2006 season after 3 1/2 seasons in the 38 car. And the team he left for was Evernhan Motorsports, which of course is now RPM. On top of that, RPM tried to cut ties with Sadler prior to the start of this season before he forced their hand to keep him in the No. 19.

    So why retain Sadler when it would seem there could be some ill will and resentment? Perhaps for the same reason they had to keep him this season -- his contract. He's reportedly signed through 2010. He'd have to walk away on his own to get him out of the 19 car. There had been a report that Sadler had been looking elsewhere, possibly as a replacement for Casey Mears at RCR, but it doesn't seem to have legs.

    But there's also this -- despite mediocre results, sponsors seem to love Sadler the same way they do Michael Waltrip. And as I've said time and time again, sponsors drive this sport.

  • Speaking of sponsors driving the sport, just look at Paul Menard. Based on his results, there's no way he should continue to have a Cup ride. But as long as his father's hardware chain continues to funnel money to support his cause, Menard is as good as gold.
  • The 96 car which is being run by Yates this year is owned by Hall of Fame Racing so Bobby Labonte hasn't necessarily lost his job, though Erik Darnell is probably out of luck turning the part-time gig into a full-time ride next year. He seemed to be the darling of Roush Racing, a Yates partner. If HOF had its druthers, I'd guess they'd have wanted Labonte to run all 36 races in the 96 car.
  • But are the hearts of the HOF owners really into it? Jeff Moorad, one of the principal owners of the organization, is in the midst of buying the San Diego Padres. I can't imagine HOF Racing is a top priority for him at the moment.

  • And what of Jamie McMurray? He was the odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing with NASCAR's four-car limit going into effect next season.
  • Even though McMurray never lived up to expectations since coming aboard as the replacement for Kurt Busch, Jack Roush reportedly still has a soft spot for him and if McMurray didn't find a ride elsewhere, he figured to hook him up with Yates, which had been basically operating as a satellite for Roush (see Darnell, Erik). Well, that's out the window.

    Unless there's still more to the Sadler situation, McMurray has no options at RPM. His best option may be a reunion with Chip Ganassi as the replacement for Martin Truex Jr. in the Earnhardt Ganassi No. 1 car. That's if Ganassi will welcome him back. That appears to be the best ride available with a marquee team.

  • There was no mention of car numbers for the merged Yates/RPM team with the announcement. Kahne almost assuredly will remain in the No. 9 car. Allmendinger seems a good bet to shift to the 43 car. Menard figures to continue to sport the 98 (if Yates wanted him in the 28 or 38, he could have made that switch last year). So that just leaves Sadler, who has been driving the 19 car since he joined the team. I would think they'd keep him with the No. 19 for continuity, but there could be some sentiment to have him the 44.

    Posted on: August 26, 2009 2:48 pm

    Yet another Earnhardt coaster in the works

    It seems DEI is getting into the coaster/amusement park business as a second Dale Earnhardt-inspired coaster was announced today.

    Last week I blogged about a coaster dubbed Intimidator 305 being constructed at Kings Dominion in Virginia.

    Well, a little bit closer to the NASCAR homebase in Charlotte, N.C., another Intimidator is going up at Carowinds, a sister park of Kings Dominion.

    Carowinds is dubbing their Intimidator as "the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the southeast", though it won't be quite as tall or as fast as the 305. I guess "southeast" is the keyword there. It will have a slighly longer track and running time than the 305.

    The unique feature of the Carowinds Intimidator is the ride cars that will feature open-air stadium-style seating with a T-bar restraint rather than an over the shoulder harness.

    So if you'd like further details about this particular Earnhardt coaster, check out this web site: http://www.intimidator.carowinds.co

    Looks like yet another amusement park I'll have to pay a visit in the coming summers.

    Category: Auto Racing
    Posted on: August 20, 2009 12:06 pm

    Earnhardt Sr. inspiration for new roller-coaster

    As a coaster enthusiast and Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan, imagine my intrigue when an e-mail came through my inbox announcing an Earnhardt-inspired coaster dubbed Intimidator 305.

    Intimidator 305And this thing sounds awesome. Set to open in April of 2010 at Kings Dominion in Virginia, it features a 300 foot first drop and reaches speeds in excess of 90 mph with a ride time of three minutes. The ride trains will take inspiration from Earnhardt's famed black No. 3 car (though from the virtual renderings it doesn't appears as if the No. 3 appears on the actual train). The coaster is being built in parternship with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

    You can check out a web site dedicated to the ride featuring artist renderings, virtual ride video and more: http://www.intimidator305.com/

    Eventually I hope to visit all the great coaster parks like Kings Dominion and Cedar Point, but I'm waiting for my kids to get a little older. Hopefully they'll enjoy coasters as much as I do -- and at an earlier age as I was a late bloomer. It wasn't until I was in high school that I really became a fan. For years you couldn't even get me to go on Disney's Space Mountain, which aside from being in the dark, is a fairly tame coaster. But now I'll go on anything.

    Category: Auto Racing
    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com