Monday, September 26, 2011

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

At New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was leading coming to the White Flag.  But he ran out of gas and Clint Bowyer drove by and won the race.  That was 2010.  This year, the situation was flipped.  Clint Bowyer led at New Hampshire coming to the White Flag.  But he ran out of fuel at the Start/Finish line, and Tony Stewart blew by for his 2nd straight win.  After a slow start to the season, Stewart has opened the Chase with 2 wins.  The last driver to do this was Greg Biffle in 2008.

Photo courtesy Getty Images
 5 of the Top 10 finishers were Chase drivers, with Stewart 1st, Brad Keselowski 2nd, Jeff Gordon 4th, Matt Kenseth 6th, and Carl Edwards 8th.  Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were 11th and 12th, while other Chase drivers ran into some trouble.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were 17th and 18th, which puts the 5-Time Champion in some hot water.  He finds himself 10th in the standings, the lowest he's ever been in his entire Chase career.  Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Denny Hamlin all finished one lap down.  With this finish, Denny Hamlin's championship hopes seem to be done. 

Tony Stewart celebrates his 2nd win of the season (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
After the 2nd race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, here are the Sprint Cup points standings:
1. (+1) Tony Stewart              --
2. (-1) Kevin Harvick              -7
3. (+3) Brad Keselowski       -11
4. (-1) Carl Edwards             -14
5. (+6) Jeff Gordon               -23
6. (+3) Kyle Busch               -26
7. (+3) Matt Kenseth            -26
8. (-3) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.      -26
9. (-5) Kurt Busch                -28
10. (-2) Jimmie Johnson       -29
11. (-4) Ryan Newman         -34
12. (--) Denny Hamlin          -66

Tony Stewart seems to have found himself at the right time.  Following his back-to-back wins, he is atop the points standings.  It will be interesting to see if he can keep this up, or if this is just a flash o the old "Smoke."  Brad Keselowski is 3rd in points, and doesn't look like he is going to slow down.  After a bad start to the race, he and crew chief Paul Wolfe worked on the car, and they came away with a 2nd place finish.  I still like Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon to win the championship, but Stewart, Harvick, and Keselowski seem to have something figured out.  And you can never count Jimmie Johnson out until he is mathematically eliminated.  But there seems to be trouble in paradise after listening to Johnson's radio on Sunday.  He and Chad Knaus seem to be having some relationship trouble.  May I recommend some couples counseling?  Anyway, we'll see what happens when the Chase continues from Dover next Sunday.

Who will win the Sprint Cup Championship?
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Thursday, September 22, 2011


NASCAR video game fans were given a great game in NASCAR The Game: 2011 earlier this year.  This was obviously a very hardcore experience, meant to capture the way the cars handle, and allowed us to make setups for each track for our cars.  But on November 1st, we will be getting something a little bit different.

Don't fret Markaholics, Mark Martin will be in the game!
If you have an XBox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii or 3DS, you can play NASCAR: Unleashed.  This is an arcade racer, where the real-life racetracks only have part of the racing action.  As the press release states, "Arcade Racers Barrel off the Track and onto the Open Road in an All-New Driving Adventure."

I'm really excited about this game.  I absolutely love the real-life racing of NASCAR The Game: 2011, but its always fun to do some arcade racing too.  I loved last year's arcade racing games "Blur" and "Split/Second."  This looks like it will be a lot of fun, and I may have to have my mom or dad run this up to me the day it comes out.  Unfortunately, there aren't any Gamestops or Best Buys in Slippery Rock.

I'd like to thank Dan Amrich (OneOfSwords) for this story.  I got most of the information off his website (  If you like video games, or just a cool guy to follow, follow him on Twitter at @OneOfSwords. And make sure you listen to the OneOfSwords Podcast, a great show about Activision video games, which include NASCAR The Game: 2011 and NASCAR: Unleashed.

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Smoke Rising

At the beginning of the Chase last year, Tony Stewart led at New Hampshire before running out of fuel on the last lap.  This year, the first race of the Chase was held at Chicagoland, but the story was still the same.  Tony Stewart was in the lead while trying to save fuel.  This time, the outcome was different.  Stewart saved enough fuel to hold off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick to win his 1st race of 2011.

Stewart celebrates his first win of 2011 (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
  While the first race of the Chase was good for the likes of Stewart and Harvick, it was not so good for others.  Denny Hamlin's bad luck followed him into the Chase.  He finished 31st, 3 laps down.  Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were not as lucky as Stewart when it came to saving fuel.  They all ran out, and finished one lap down.  Matt Kenseth was headed to a 9th place finish, but he received a push from JJ Yeley on the last lap.  The rule says that you may not be pushed on the last lap if you are out of fuel.  This sent Kenseth from a 9th place finish all the way back to 21st, the first car a lap down.

Photo Courtesy Getty Images
 The other Chasers all finished well, despite some running out of fuel coming out of Turn 4.  In fact, with the exception of Clint Bowyer in 7th and Mark Martin in 9th, the Top 10 finishers were all Chase drivers.  This really shook up the points standings, with only Denny Hamlin remaining in the same position.  Here are the Chase points, after the first race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup:
  1. (+1) Kevin Harvick         --
  2. (+7) Tony Stewart          -7
  3. (+2) Carl Edwards        -10
  4. (+3) Kurt Busch            -11
  5. (+5) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -13
  6. (+5) Brad Keselowski   -14
  7. (+1) Ryan Newman       -14
  8. (-2) Jimmie Johnson       -16
  9. (-8) Kyle Busch            -19
  10. (-6) Matt Kenseth         -24
  11. (-8) Jeff Gordon            -25
  12. (--) Denny Hamlin         -41
I, unfortunately, could not watch all of the race again this week.  Mother Nature needs to stop messing with racing, because college doesn't really care about postponements of NASCAR races.  But, the end of the race really shook up the points.  It will be fun to see what happens when the Chase continues on at New Hampshire.  Some championship favorites find themselves in a hole early, while some drivers who were not very strong in the regular season now find themselves in good position to win a championship.  This weekend's race at New Hampshire will definitely be fun to watch.  Unfortunately, this race was also Tony Stewart's 40th win in the Cup Series, tying him for 16th on the All-Time wins list with none other than Mark Martin.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Cut to the Chase

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is upon us once again!  This year, we didn't know who would be in the Chase until the checkered flag fell at Richmond International Raceway.  Thanks to the new Wild Card, there were many scenarios that made it interesting until the very end.  Many were wondering if Brad Keselowski, who has been on a recent hot streak, could break into the Top 10 and kick either Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Tony Stewart out.  But after all the dust settled, nothing had changed in the Top 10, and the 12 drivers who made the Chase were the 12 drivers who were eligible when the race started.
The 2011 Chase field. (photo courtesy Getty Images
1. Kyle Busch - He's been fast all season, and he is a favorite as the Chase gets started.
2. Kevin Harvick - RCR has been slow in the past few weeks but, with his win at Richmond, Harvick has asserted himself as a Chase favorite for the 2nd consecutive season.
3. Jeff Gordon - With his 85th Career win, Jeff Gordon showed us that his 24 Chevy is fast.  The Drive for 5 is, in fact, alive.
4. Matt Kenseth - Kenseth has been consistent all season long, and it looks like the Kenseth of old who won the 2003 Championship has returned.
5. Carl Edwards - The Roush cars have not been as fast in recent weeks, but after Richmond, Carl Edwards seems poised to win his first Sprint Cup Championship.
6. Jimmie Johnson - The 5-Time Champ has seemed off his game as of late, but he and Chad Knaus can still get the job done.  Don't count out Johnson until the checkered flag falls at Homestead.
7. Kurt Busch - After a major meltdown following the Richmond race, many are questioning if Busch can hold it together long enough to fight for the Championship.
8. Ryan Newman - He has looked better this season than his team owner, but his lack of Chase experience may hurt him.
9. Tony Stewart - He has stated that his cars aren't as good as they could be.  Don't expect Stewart to make much noise during the Championship hunt.
10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Junior returns to the Chase after a strong start to the season.  But poor performances in the past month have Junior Nation wondering what went wrong.
11. Brad Keselowski - Keselowski has come on strong since breaking his ankle in August.  If that continues during the Chase, don't be surprised to see Brad fighting with the likes of Jimmie Johnson.
12. Denny Hamlin - With the final Wild Card spot, Denny Hamlin is hoping to undo the championship heartbreak of last year.  But after a season of struggles, and just 1 win, don't expect Hamlin to be fighting for it when we roll into Homestead.
The 12 Chase Drivers Celebrate (photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The Wild Card has done its job by making the Race to the Chase interesting.  It would be a safe choice to pick Jimmie Johnson to win his 6th straight title, but I'm going with Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon.  Kyle Busch has matured, and he seems ready to finally win a Sprint Cup Championship.  Jeff Gordon has been fast all year and, teamed with Crew Chief Alan Gustafson, he seems ready to win his first Cup title since 2001.  Hopefully the Chase will be as exciting as the Race to the Chase, and we won't know who the Champion is until the dust settles at Homestead in November.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jeff Gordon, 85 Times a Winner

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finally raced at Atlanta for a rare Tuesday race, Jeff Gordon rewrote the history books again.  He passed Darrell Waltrip and (possibly) Bobby Allison for sole possession of 3rd place on the All-Time NASCAR Cup Wins list.  With 85 wins, Gordon is now only behind David Pearson (105 wins) and Richard Petty (200 Wins).

Jeff Gordon celebrates at Atlanta. (Photo courtesy

Jeff Gordon has been racing in NASCAR's Top Tier series since 1992, where he started the season finale at Atlanta.  It has taken him 20 years to make it to 85 wins.  It took Darrell Waltrip 21 years to get to 84 wins.  That win was at Darlington, in 1992.  Though Waltrip would still drive until 2000, he never won in the Cup Series again.  Bobby Allison used up his whole 25 year career to get to 84 wins.  His final win came in the 1988 Daytona 500, where he held off his son, Davey, for the checkered flag.  Unfortunately, his career was cut short after a horrifying crash at Pocono almost took his life just 12 weeks later.

Jeff Gordon wins for the first time (Photo Courtesy Charlotte Motor Speedway)
 Jeff Gordon's first win came at the grand old age of 22.  He took his first checkered flag at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600.  Until a winless drought in 2008, Jeff Gordon had won at least 1 race every year since 1994.  His best years in that span were 1996-1998.  He won 33 races in that span (10 each in '96 and '97, and 13 in '98).  He also won 2 championships back-to-back in 1997 and 1998. 

Jeff Gordon and NASCAR President Mike Helton (Photo Courtesy
 Since coming into the sport, Jeff Gordon has been a force to be reckoned with.  He has now surpassed 2 Hall of Famers in all-time wins.  That is, unless you ask Bobby.  He'll tell you that he and Jeff are tied, each with 85.  But that's a story for another blog, another day.  Right now, we'll say that Jeff Gordon is 3rd in all-time wins.  And its been a long time coming.  Congratulations Jeff.  Who knows, maybe he'll be able to get ahead of David Pearson one day.


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