Monday, November 17, 2008

Three-peat - yes!

For those of you who are bored silly with NASCAR, this will be my last post about it for a while and that's probably a good thing. It will give my nervous system a chance to convalesce. The race at Homestead was rather anti-climactic. The most suspenseful part was watching Jimmie work his way through traffic from his 30th place start. There was no doubt that he could do it, only a concern that one of the crazy back-rows drivers would do something to catch him up in a wreck.

Meanwhile, Carl Edwards was leading the most laps, finally winning the race on fuel mileage strategy. So Jimmie goes into the record books as only the second driver ever to win back-to-back-to-back championships. And Chad Knauss is the first and only crew chief to do the same. Congratulations to the 48!

Some last minute thoughts about my part of the NASCAR season which didn't even start until the Brickyard, the first race I ever watched. That will make the start of 2009 fun for me because I will have a bunch of new tracks to watch until I catch up to where I came in.

- I've heard some people say that if it wasn't for the Chase, Carl Edwards would have won the championship on points (15 points, I believe) but that's not necessarily true. Lets say, for the sake of argument, that Jimmie and Carl would have come into Homestead with Carl ahead of Jimmie. Isn't it likely that their strategies would have been exactly the opposite of what they actually were? Wouldn't Carl have been playing it cautious to try to preserve his lead and wouldn't Jimmie have gone for the win (with, which the car he had, he very likely could have done). We can't know what would have happened if circumstances had been different because both sides would have played the cards they were dealt in a different way.

- I've learned in my virgin season that I don't like restrictor plate racing which I've written about before. I'm just not turned on by team sports. I also learned that I do not enjoy races that end with fuel mileage strategy. I understand that it is sometimes useful for getting a team a win but watching someone preserve their lead by ambling around the track just sort of seems to go against the grain of what racing should be about to me. Better to see them finish by going for broke and racing hard.

- I've also decided that I don't think Sprint Cup drivers should not be allowed to compete in either the Truck Series or the Nationwide Series. That's like allowing NFL players to go back to college to play football, then giving them credit when they win, like it's a big surprise. Naturally, the superior drivers are going to dominate and they do. Clint Bowyer won the Nationwide championship and also came in fifth in the Sprint Cup. Both Nationwide and Truck are considered the farm teams for the Sprint Cup, mostly up and coming drivers who hope to race their way into the top ranks of the elite series. It takes away most of their motivation to know the big kids are gonna' come into their playground and take any hope of a championship away. Seems like it would also make sponsorship more difficult to come by when your young driver probably doesn't have a prayer against the likes of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. The stated reason for allowing the Sprint drivers to compete is that it increases fan interest when the top drivers are racing. But, is this true? The truck series had the fewest Sprint drivers but also a far higher audience rating than Nationwide in which the big league drivers overshadowed everyone else.

Similarly, I don't put much value on drivers winning in all three series, be it Kyle, Carl or Clint. To laud them for their total number of wins across the three series like it some huge achievement, is wrong as far as I'm concerned. For a Sprint driver to win in Nationwide or Truck doesn't count the same - like that pro player racking up points against the college players. It's what you expect them to do. Big deal. Nationwide isn't a mini-Sprint Cup. It is a league of its own and its competitors should start on a level playing field, racing one another, and not the powerhouses of the sport.

- Was Red Bull's decision to switch cars between Brian Vickers and Scott Speed really such a smart one in hindsight? The concern was that Scott wouldn't be able to keep his car in the top 35 in owner's points. But Scott qualified 2nd, was the 2nd fastest in practice and finished 16th. Meanwhile, Brian Vickers came in 31st. Wouldn't Red Bull have been better off to leave things as they were? Speed's quirky personality and giggling demeanor appeals to me and I hope he does well next year. I didn't hear the announcers give him much credit but I thought he did himself proud last night in only his, I think, third or fourth cup race.

- It was an emotional night for Tony Stewart, his last with Joe Gibbs Racing and Home Depot. I'll be rooting for Stewart Haas Racing next year (behind Jimmie, of course). Both Tony and his second driver, Ryan Newman, are Indiana natives so Hoosier loyalty has to kick in here.

- I haven't seen all of the "60 Most Beautiful People in NASCAR" but I know Jimmy was 11th (only 11th???), his wife Chandra was third and Kasey Kahne was first. Kasey certainly wouldn't have got my vote. My own preference is for a more masculine man but we not everyone agrees on a male standard of beauty. I have a feeling Jimmie doesn't much care where he wound up on the "most beautiful" list, preferring his first place rankings on the track.

I get so sick of reading how boring the NASCAR season was this year from people who call themselves devoted fans. I hear how they ironed or played solitaire rather than watching the races. I think if this is how they feel, they should probably just get out of the sport altogether and let more enthusiastic people take over instead of trying to bring everyone else down. It is not the old days, folks, and never will be again and your sour attitude about how "it used to be" and how wonderful the "real racers" were compared to today's drivers makes me tired. Just go back and watch past decades' replays if you can't get beyond it.

I thought the racing was exciting and expect it to be more so next year when everyone has a fresh start and their own agenda. Carl Edwards was a terrific competitor this time and I expect he'll be out for blood and a championship starting in February. Kyle Busch was dominant in the early part of the season and I have a feeling, he'll have put the bad taste of this year's Chase behind him and head great guns into 2009. Tony Stewart will be determined to see Stewart Haas do well in its maiden year. Jeff Gordon will be eager to make up for 2008's no-win season. I believe Dale Earnhardt, Jr will hit his stride with Hendrick's. Jamie McMurray had a great end-of-2008 and he'll be wanting to build on it in 2009. Ditto David Ragan. Add in all the others, and, of course, watching Jimmie try for four in a row, and it all adds up to can't-wait anticipation to me.