Friday, August 22, 2014

Fired up Friday - August 22, 2014

My responses to the SiriusXM "Morning Drive" fired-up Friday questions for Friday, August 22, 2014:

#1:  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be the Hendrick Motorsports driver to win the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship.  I have thought for a long time that the winner needs three things -- consistency, some wins and most importantly the belief that they CAN win.  Beginning last year, the 88 team demonstrated that they have consistency, and that has continued this year.  This year to date, they have three (3) wins, which will provide a seeding lift going into the Chase.  However, most importantly, the three wins this year have shown Dale that he CAN win, and I believe that he now believes the same.  A fearless mental attitude coupled with Hendrick Motorsports resources and preparation is awful tough to beat.

#2:  Jeff Gordon has won 12% of the Sprint Cup races he's ever entered, and has demonstrated that he can win at that level again this year, by winning 3 of 23 races so far this year (13%.)   If this performance continues, Jeff will need 75 more races to get the 9 more victories he needs to reach 100.   That is perfect, with 13 races left this year and 72 opportunities available over the next two years.  So yes, give Jeff these 85 races and he will amass at least 100 Sprint Cup victories.

#3:  Bristol is a "crown jewel" race on the Sprint Cup calendar, but it belongs in the Chase ONLY if it is an elimination race (i.e. Race #3, #6 or #9) in the Chase.  Weather probably precludes it being #9, so race #3 or #6 is more likely... probably #3.  If it falls in spot number 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 or 8 I don't think the tone and atmosphere of that race is much different than it is now.

In my opinion, the August Bristol race got too tame beginning in 2004 with the advent of the Chase.  The reason being is that it falls too close to the beginning of the Chase -- if a driver is locked-in, they don't care.  If a driver, however, is border-line in or out, they're too conservative so as not to hurt their chances.

Because of this, I say move Bristol into the Chase as race #3 or leave it alone.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Making Some Sense of the Kevin Ward Tragedy

As a passionate NASCAR follower and Tony Stewart fan, I certainly have my opinions about the tragic events that unfolded last Saturday night in upstate New York.  However, I'm going to withhold comment on many of them because I don't want to be guilty of what I've criticized others for doing in the last 48-72 hours, and that's going off on an emotional rant that is void of any lucidity or logic.  I will, however, touch upon what we can reasonably discuss and what we can do as the sport moves forward.

Where do we go from here?  The sport needs to learn from this tragedy and do all that it can to ensure that it doesn't happen again.  I believe that is best done by what some tracks and series have already announced and what others will certainly embrace as well -- prohibit, by rule, drivers exiting their cars while on the race track until safety personnel have arrived.  Obviously, if the car is on fire, spewing hot water or hot oil on a driver, or some other situation where common sense tells him/her that it is more dangerous to remain in the car than to exit it, then by all means, exit it.  Otherwise, stay in your car.  

Police officers advise motorists whom they've stopped for traffic violations to do the same -- stay in the car.  It's safer for both the motorist and the officer.  Sure, there are exceptions, but most of the time, remaining with the vehicle is the best option.

Please understand that I cannot imagine what Mr. Ward's family and friends are going through right now, and that I give every ounce of respect to their wishes for privacy as they go through the grieving process.  I hate that this accident happened and I wish that it hadn't.  With this said however, I also believe that since perhaps the biggest "fix" to this situation is to mandate staying with the car, that Mr. Ward bears responsibility for HIS actions last Saturday night.  Aggressively and quickly exiting his car, and running down the track into traffic on a poorly-lit racetrack at night wearing an all-black fire suit and helmet in front of cars without good visibility were all decisions I'm sure Mr. Ward would like to reconsider.  Sadly, he will not have that opportunity.