Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stewart Does a Rain Dance

Tony Stewart usually doesn't start to win races until June or July.  So I think someone needs to give him a calendar.  Stewart must think that it's the summer, because he won his second race of the season at California. 

Stewart gets out of his car under the red flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin led the field to the green in Fontana, and led the first lap before Kyle Busch took the lead away from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.  Busch would lead the race for much of the first half, only losing the lead during the first two cycles of green flag pit stops.  Tony Stewart was the first driver to pass Kyle Busch during racing action, when Busch could not get around Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 85.

Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin lead the field at the start of the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
 With the rain that was in the forecast for the day, one of the biggest victories came when Tony Stewart crossed the line on lap 100.  The race then became official, and all the crews could go home that night; no Monday race!  As soon as the race was official, green flag pit stops began again, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson began trying some pit strategy.  They stayed out a few extra laps, hoping to make it on fuel mileage.  But Jeff Gordon dragged his gas man out of his pit stall, and he had to serve a drive-thru penalty.

Tony Stewart regained the lead after pit stops, and continued to lead the field until the first caution came out on lap 123; rain had arrived in Turn 4.  The red flag came out on lap 129, and the race was never resumed.  Tony Stewart was able to outlast the rain, to win yet another race.  He has now won seven of the last fifteen races. 

The cars sit on pit road after it began raining (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, who led the most laps, finished second to Stewart.  Busch was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third, Kevin Harvick in fourth, and Carl Edwards in fifth.  Edwards' teammate and Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle finished sixth.  Ryan Newman was seventh, Martin Truex Jr. was eighth, and Kurt Busch was ninth.  Jimmie Johnson, who had engine problems right as the caution fell for rain, hung on to round out the top ten.  Mark Martin, who will not race next week in Martinsville, finished 12th.

Stewart's car is pushed to victory lane after the race was called for rain (Courtesy Getty Images)
Tony Stewart has kept his momentum from last season going, and he seems to be poised for another championship run.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series will roll into Martinsville Speedway for a race on the shortest track in NASCAR.  The race coverage starts at 12:30 on FOX.

Helio Wins Emotion St. Petersburg Race

As Helio Castroneves drove away from the field in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he no doubt was thinking of his late friend Dan Wheldon.  The first race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series took place in Dan Wheldon's adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.  Wheldon lost his life in a horrific crash in last season's IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas.

Castroneves celebrates winning the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Courtesy Getty Images)
Will Power, who finished second in the points standings last season, led the field to the green flag; he would go on to finish seventh.  Last year's champion, Dario Franchitti, finished 13th.  Former Formula 1 star Rubens Barrichello finished 17th in his IndyCar Series debut.

The biggest change to the IndyCar series this year was the debut of a new car.  The new car, which was being tested by Wheldon, is safer, protecting the rear wheels so there can be no more wheel-to-wheel contact.

The support for Wheldon was strong throughout the day.  The fans headed to the race were encouraged to wear orange in support of Wheldon, and there were orange ribbons for sale, with the proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Association.  Turn 10 was renamed "Dan Wheldon Way," and that is where Castroneves celebrated his victory.  He go out of his car, climbed the fence, and patted the sign while remembering his fallen friend.  "No question about it, this is for our friend upstairs, Dan Wheldon," Castroneves told reporters following his victory.

Tony Kanaan, who finished 25th after having battery problems, put the race weekend into perspective.  "At the end of the day, we're racing on a beautiful day," Kanaan told reporters.  "The crowd has been awesome.  I think we have much bigger problems in life than just dropping out of a race.  It's sad, but I want to thank my crew guys, and I'm obviously thinking about Dan.  That's what I'm really thinking about."

Castroneves celebrates his win in Turn 10, Dan Wheldon Way
The race in St. Petersburg was an emotional one, but it was a big step in the healing process.  Dan Wheldon will never be forgotten, and the IndyCar series is doing exactly what he would have wanted: race.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Keselowski Goes Back-to-Back in Thunder Valley

Brad Keselowski was the break-out star of 2011.  He ended the season on a roll, and many were wondering if he could keep it up in 2012.  Well, Brad Keselowski showed everyone that he is here to stay, with his second-straight victory at the famous Bristol Motor Speedway.

Brad Keselowski celebrates in Bristol's victory lane (Courtesy Getty Images)
Greg Biffle started on the pole, and it didn't take long for the first caution to come out.  On lap 24, Kasey Kahne slid his car off the nose of Regan Smith, which started a pile-up heading into turn 1.  Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, and Kevin Harvick all piled into Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.  This is not the start that Kasey Kahne wanted to his season, and when speaking to reporters, he seemed frustrated; "I listened too much to my spotter, I guess."  Kahne felt the blame should be split between himself and Regan Smith.  Listening to what Smith told his crew, he doesn't see it that way; "I was out there, he just didn't give me no damn room!"

This lap 3 crash collected some of the race favorites (Courtesy Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger led the field to the green flag on lap 47, and he was able to hold the lead until lap 95, when Brian Vickers took the lead from Allmendinger.  Vickers, who doesn't have a full-time ride for 2012, started a limited schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, driving the No. 55 car that was vacated by Mark Martin this weekend.  Martin, who is only driving a partial schedule, sat out this weekend's race at Bristol.  He will return to the car in Fontana next weekend.

Brian Vickers (55) leads AJ Allmendinger (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 116, Ken Schrader hit the wall, bringing out the second caution of the day.  All the leaders pitted, and Vickers was able to keep the lead.  On lap 122, the race went back green, Vickers was able to hold the lead for a while.  Nearly 100 laps later, on 217, Brad Keselowski was able to get around Brian Vickers for the lead.  Keseloswki regained the lead after green flag pit stops, and held the lead all the way until the caution came out on lap 340.  Following pit stops, Keselowski remained first, followed by Matt Kenseth.

Keselowski leads Matt Kenseth late in the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went back green on lap 346, and by lap 348, Matt Kenseth was the leader.  Kenseth held the lead until the fourth caution came out on lap 359.  Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together, and the tailpipe on the 88 car cut down the left rear of Jeff Gordon.  Gordon spun going into the corner and hit the wall.

Jeff Gordon slides down the track after hitting the wall (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kenseth led the field to the green flag on lap 371, but Keselowski would not let him get away.  After racing side-by-side for the lead for almost 15 laps, Keselowski's patience finally paid off and he was able to get the lead from the 17 car.  Kenseth was stalking Keselowski around the track until the caution came out on lap 478, when Tony Stewart was sent into the wall by Brendan Gaughan. 

On the final restart with 17 laps to go, Keselowski picked the outside lane for the first time, and was able to clear Matt Kenseth .  The race went green from then on, and Matt Kenseth was not able to make up any time on Keselowski following the restart.  Michael Waltrip Racing rounded out the top 5, with Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers finishing 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

Brad Keselowski crosses the finish line to win his second race at Bristol (Courtesy Getty Images)
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400.  A 1.5 mile oval, this track should be strong for some drivers who need the help; Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, who both wrecked today, and Jimmie Johnson, who is still coming back from his Daytona penalty.  The green flag waves next Sunday at 2:30 EST, only on FOX.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stewart Hits the Jackpot

Tony Stewart had never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway coming into the Kobalt Tools 400.  Last season, he led the most laps before being defeated at the end of the race by Carl Edwards.  But when the checkered flag fell in Las Vegas today, Tony Stewart led Jimmie Johnson across the start/finish line for his 45th career Sprint Cup Series victory.  Johnson came across the line in second, followed by Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards to round out the top five.

Tony Stewart celebrates in Victory Lane (Courtesy Associated Press)
The race began with hope for Junior Nation.  Kasey Kahne started on the pole, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly jumped out to the early lead and led most of the first 75 laps.  But under the second caution for a spin by David Reutimann, Junior took four tires while most of the field took two.  After restarting 16th, Junior was unable to get back to the lead, and finished 10th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led early before fading to a 10th place finish (Courtesy Getty Images)
 On the final restart, Matt Kenseth spun the tires, and Carl Edwards went underneath him to make it 3-wide with teammate Greg Biffle.  Coming off turn 2, Kenseth's car got sucked around, and he tapped Kasey Kahne before he slapped the wall multiple times, dropping far down in the running order.  Kenseth would stay on the track, and would finish 22nd.

That set up the sprint to the finish between Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.  Johnson was able to pull up to the back bumper of Stewart with about four laps to go, but Stewart was able to hold him off and he began to pull away in the last few laps.  Stewart crossed the finish line first, for his first win of 2012.  Stewart, who didn't get his first win of 2011 until the Chase, now finds himself seventh in the point standings, 25 points behind leader Greg Biffle.

Mark Martin finished 18th after contact from Dale Jr. (Courtesy Getty Images)
 Some other notable finishers: After being hit by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps, Mark Martin finished 18th.  Martin, who will not be racing next weekend at Bristol, told his crew following the race, "Not a bad day, for a bad day."  Denny Hamlin, who won at Phoenix last weekend, finished 20th.  Kyle Busch spun with eight laps to go, and finished 23rd.  Brad Keselowski, who challenged for the lead late, had trouble on the lap 250 restart, and finished 32nd.

Tony Stewart leads the field on a late restart (Courtesy Getty Images)
 Tony Stewart's momentum has carried over from last season, and he looks poised to collect numerous victories.  Jimmie Johnson seems strong, and he seems determined to race his way out of a 25-point penalty following the Daytona 500.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Bristol, and the race promises to have lots of beating and banging.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blogs for a Cause

Usually, I don't write about things that aren't related to NASCAR or some of my main interests.  I don't try to make my blog political, and I don't want to offend anyone who reads this blog.  But this is something that is very near to my heart, and I would like everyone to sign this petition.  No, it isn't something stupid, like my Weird Al Super Bowl Petition blog, but this is something that is worthwhile; this is a petition to the President of the United States for a strong plan to combat Alzheimer's Disease.

Alzheimer's Disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.  In fact, it is the only one in the top 10 without a cure, a prevention, or even a way to slow its progression.  This year alone, Alzheimer's Disease will cost the United States $183 billion.  If action isn't taken now, that cost is expected to rise to $1 trillion by 2050.  Though there are some drugs on the market right now for Alzheimer's treatment, these drugs only target the symptoms of the disease; there is nothing that can be done to stop or reverse the progression of the disease. 

The only way to find a cure for this disease is to understand what causes it.  Unfortunately, the cause is not understood.  Because of this, people with Alzheimer's will continue to get worse.  Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease, and the sufferer must rely on a caregiver.  Unfortunately, as they age, more stress is placed on the caregiver.

You're probably wondering why I'm writing about this.  Unfortunately, my grandfather is currently suffering from this disease.  It's placing great stress on my grandma and my mom.  All I'm asking is that you sign the petition.  I'm not asking you to donate, I'm not asking you to do any work; all I'm asking you to do is sign your name.  Every signature helps.

Usually my blogs will only get about 20 views in a week.  But I'm asking you to post this blog everywhere; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, anywhere.  Make this a world without Alzheimer's, so that families don't have to go through what mine is currently going through.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Denny Hamlin Wins Duel In the Desert

Denny Hamlin was in the lead, headed towards a win at Phoenix International Raceway.  Then, in the midst of a fuel-mileage race, he ran out of gas and finished 12th.  The next week, Denny Hamlin's championship dreams were crushed by Jimmie Johnson, who went on to win his fifth championship.  That was 2010.  Today, Hamlin, who had a down 2011, may have finally recovered from his 2010 heartbreak.  Hamlin was able to hold off Kevin Harvick to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Denny Hamlin celebrates his win at Phoenix (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 At the beginning of the race, Clint Bowyer's day went downhill.  On lap 16, Bowyer cut down a tire to bring out the first caution.  Then, on lap 25, Bowyer cut down another tire, and had to go the pits to get the car fixed after hitting the wall.  Without a caution, Bowyer would fall a few laps down.  He finished 30th, six laps down.

Race favorite Kasey Kahne smacked the wall hard on lap 31, and took his car behind the wall.  Kahne, who crashed in his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the Daytona 500, finished 34th, 38 laps down.  Kahne now finds himself 32nd in points, 64 points out of the lead.

Kevin Harvick led 88 laps en route to a runner-up finish (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
 After pit stops on lap 230, the race became a fuel-mileage race, with many of the drivers not being able to go the rest of the way.  Kevin Harvick, who dominated most of the race, now found himself chasing the leader.  When Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman got together, bringing out the seventh caution, Harvick found himself in fourth. 
Ryan Newman hits the wall after contact from Carl Edwards (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
With ten laps to go, Harvick began to reel in leader Denny Hamlin.  With about six laps to go, the leaders caught some lapped traffic, and Hamlin was able to pick his way past the slower cars.  But in doing so, he let Harvick pull right up to his back bumper.  But with a lap and a half to go, Harvick ran out of gas, and that opened the doors for Denny Hamlin to win his first race since Michigan last June.  Hamlin told reporters that was surprised by his team's performance today.  "I don't know where this came from.  We were solidly off in practice.  We were off, but we kept getting it better and closer and closer to being competitive, but I had no idea that we were going to fire off like we did today," Hamlin said.

Hamlin crosses the line in first place (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick was still able to finish 2nd, even though he ran out of gas.  Following Harvick was Greg Biffle.  Jimmie Johnson, who was strong early in the race, finished 4th, and Brad Keselowski finished 5th.  Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Jeff Gordon finished 6th, 7th, and 8th, respectively.  Pole-sitter Mark Martin finished 9th, and Joey Logano finished 10th.

The Sprint Cup Series may have finished the race in Phoenix, but they aren't done on the west coast.  Next week, the stars of the Sprint Cup Series head to Las Vegas, where Carl Edwards won last season.  It should be fun to watch next week, when the Sprint Cup Series heads into the Sin City!