Odds and Ends: Formula One with Fenders and Kyle Rules Edition

Formula One with Fenders

I am a big fan of just about every kind of racing but stock car racing has always been my favorite. The reason is simple I enjoy the hard charging style of racing that made NASCAR famous back in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up. The drivers were also no nonsense guys who were tough compared to the stylish daredevils in Formula One. But over the last 10 years NASCAR seems to have an inferiority complex concerning technology when it comes to other styles of racing. Now the NASCAR garage has more computer analytic professionals and engineers than grease monkeys. There is nothing wrong with technology but lately I wonder if NASCAR went too far on the aero package on these cars. Turn back the clock 10 years ago and if a driver hit the wall or spun in the grass he could come back from that accident to win even at a speedway. Now if you put a crease on the right front corner of the car you go from being a top ten car to barely hanging on to the lead lap. If you spin in the grass and damage your splitter your chances to win are over. Look at what happened with tires versus track position last week at the All Star Race. If you took two tires and got out front you could stay up front but if you got a bad restart and ended up in traffic the turbulent air killed your chances and you dropped back through the field. Look at drivers that could slice and dice their way through the field but then they couldn’t pass the leader even on less worn tires. Auto racing intrigued me as a kid because I was a science wonk. There have always been two main factors causing grip for a stock car on the track. Aero grip and mechanical grip. Mechanical grip was always more prevalent in NASCAR while aero grip was always more important in Formula One and Indy Car. Now NASCAR has become more dependent on aero grip and this year they also took throttle control away from the drivers with the tapered spacer. This has led to worse racing by any statistical comparison. NASCAR has turned into “Formula One with Fenders” with the restarts the only time we are likely to see great racing action.

Kyle Busch Rules

NASCAR made the right decision concerning Kyle Busch. Kyle missed 11 races this season due to severe injuries suffered during an Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway in February. It seems very obvious that the right call for NASCAR was to grant Kyle Busch a medical waiver for the races missed and let him qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship if he wins a race and finishes in the top 30 in points per the NASCAR rule book. Since the incident NASCAR has sounded like they are taking the blame for this wreck by not being more proactive on the addition of SAFER barriers at race tracks hosting events. I was worried this might have led NASCAR to waiving the top 30 requirement for Kyle Busch and that would have been a huge mistake. If a driver misses so many races that they are unable to finish in the top 30 in points, how can that driver be declared the best during the season? NASCAR also had to make sure they did not give special treatment to Kyle Busch because of how popular he is or because his sponsor is the Official Chocolate of NASCAR. The good news for NASCAR and for Kyle Busch fans is that if he can race in the remaining 15 races before the Chase Kyle has a great chance of scoring enough points to make the top 30. Right now he is 179 points behind 30th place Tony Stewart. Kyle Busch would have to outperform Stewart by an average of 12 positions per race which compared to Stewart’s results so far would mean an average finish of 15th place. Assuming Stewart picks up the pace there are two other struggling drivers less than 30 points ahead of Stewart at this time. I am glad NASCAR didn’t invoke some sort of special “Kyle Busch Rule” to give him a waiver on the top 30 because they are feeling guilty for causing his injury.

Drivers Unite

The NASCAR driver colony seldom agrees on anything. If there is a wreck on the track it is rare that the two drivers involved agree on why it happened. If one team is having a great year that team thinks the rule package is perfect while twenty other guys are unhappy. But this year we are seeing something very rare in the NASCAR garage. The last time we saw drivers this unified about anything was back in 1969 at Talladega Super Speedway’s grand opening when the Professional Drivers Association managed to have a unified boycott of the event. Back then drivers were concerned about living through the race but today’s unified cause is more concerned about the fans staying awake during races. Have you heard any driver say something nice about the tapered spacer yet? Through the first fifty plus years of NASCAR’s history there were always two or three drivers who spoke for the garage area and could get changes made based on their pull with NASCAR. But in today’s NASCAR there isn’t a single driver with either the gravitas or resume to get NASCAR officials concerned enough to listen. The NASCAR drivers know this and that is why at Kansas Speedway you saw so many drivers voice the same concerns during their mandatory media appearances. They know the only way NASCAR might listen is if they are tired of hearing it in the media sessions as the drivers unite to attempt to get a better rule package for next season.

Join the THUNDER CREW every Tuesday night at 8pm ET with no nonsense and foo foo free #NASCAR talk here on RaceTalkRadio.com

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Fantasy Insight- World 600 Edition

Handicapping a NASCAR race is very similar to handicapping a horse race. Some drivers are “Horses for Courses” performing better at certain lengths or styles of tracks. By incorporating three basic ingredients in a special formula based on statistical analysis of 15 years of racing data the Pro Power Ratings have been developed. Just like Beyers Figures in horse racing the best pick is not always the highest rated competitor but reaching threshold values narrows the competition down to the most likely picks to click on race day. Each week I will give you my picks for the top three positions shown in horse racing terms as Win, Place and Show along with a longshot and sleeper pick.

Charlotte Notes- This is the 4th year in a row that this left side tire has been used at Charlotte but this will be the first year for the right sides that will include the multi-zone tread design. This is the same right side tire used at Texas this year. Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr and JJ Yeley participated in the March test at Charlotte.

Threshold Qualifiers- 21 drivers qualify for being a contender by meeting the 80 pt minimum with only 3 reaching the minimum of 90pts to qualify as a top contender

Top Tier 90 or More

  1. Kevin Harvick

  2. Jimmie Johnson

  3. Ryan Newman

Second Tier 85-89.99

  1. Kasey Kahne

  2. Joey Logano

  3. Matt Kenseth

  4. Jamie McMurray

  5. Jeff Gordon

  6. Brad Keselowski

  7. Kurt Busch

  8. Martin Truex Jr

  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr

Third Tier 80-84.99

  1. Carl Edwards

  2. Denny Hamlin

  3. Kyle Busch

  4. Austin Dillon

  5. Clint Bowyer

  6. Kyle Larson

  7. AJ Allmendinger

  8. Aric Almirola

  9. Paul Menard

Win Pick- Kevin Harvick- Impossible to pick against the best driver and team of the year

3 to 1 Odds

Place Pick- Jimmie Johnson- No longer named after his sponsor but he is always tough here

6 to 1 Odds

Show Pick- Kasey Kahne- All Star Race showed that the tire test helped dial this team in

20 to 1 Odds

Longshot Special (20 to 1 Odds or Greater)

Kyle Busch- He looked like he was already in good form at the All Star Race

20 to 1 Odds

Sleeper Pick (C Group in Yahoo Fantasy Racing)

David Ragan- He won’t be the fastest driver on the track this week but should stay out of trouble

100 to 1 Odds

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Making the Grade- NASCAR Technology Hypocrisy Edition

After each NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend I hand out one grade for each letter grade and a review of the television broadcast and event too. Race fans seldom agree with my opinion but it is hard to get 10 race fans to agree on whether it is partly cloudy or mostly sunny most days. Let’s get the red marker out and grade the All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

And now on with the show…

Race Grade: C+

Whether it is because of the format, the aero package or the tires this race has become a shadow of its former self. Maybe it is time to rent Humpy Wheeler and have him come up with a new idea for an aging show. My guess is that the biggest problem is the tires being too hard to give up speed fast enough with this new multi-tread design. But we did get the chance to see the value of clean air on the nose of the leader during the second segment. Both Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr gambled on a two tire change for track position. Bad Brad got out to a lead and held on for the entire twenty five lap segment while June Bug fell all the way back to eleventh place. We also got a chance to see the issue with the aero package in the second segment when Kurt Busch could get close to but not pass Bad Brad despite being on better tires. Attention NASCAR…a ten lap segment won’t be any fun if the drivers don’t have a super soft compound of tire to race two wide for more than one corner. Maybe that last segment needs to be longer.

Television Broadcast: B

Fox Sports 1 did a good job of making a marginally exciting race into an interesting broadcast which is not easy. While the pre race festivities were entertaining there was almost too much fluff and pre-race to go with the rather lack luster race.

 F for NASCAR’s Technological Hypocrisy

NASCAR went all out this season with a new super high tech system to pick up every pit road penalty taking away almost all of the human factor in officiating things on pit road. They have used timing to the 1/1000th of a second to decide whether a team is speeding on pit road for many years. With all of this high tech officiating why do they leave the decision on whether a driver restarted the race within the designated restart zone to the eyeballs of a human official? The biggest problem with Denny Hamlin’s restart wasn’t whether he left a little too soon or not the bigger issue was his lack of consistent speed coming to the green flag. (Although this whole argument by many NASCAR media types that Denny’s restart was OK because a million dollars was on the line made me laugh…its either a penalty or it is not!) NASCAR could monitor the speed of the leader and if he varies more than a certain amount that is an illegal move. If he speeds up before the GPS located beginning of the restart zone then that is an illegal move. Come on NASCAR if you are going to go all high tech to catch a guy hitting pit lane a nanosecond too soon you should use technology to take all of the guess work out of restarts especially when the restart is the most important part of the race with this aero package! While I am on the subject of hypocrisy, will NASCAR crack down on tires with only three tight lug nuts before or after a wheel comes off and causes a big wreck or ends up in the stands?

D for Brad Keselowski’s Speeding Penalty

Whatever happened to a race being decided on the race track by driver talent? Brad Keselowski told NASCAR fans this aero package and tapered spacer rules are horrible for the quality of the racing when he said he knew he was toast if he restarted on the outside. When not even one of the most daring drivers in recent NASCAR history thinks he has a chance to out race the leader simply because of restarting on the outside that is a big problem that NASCAR needs to address before next season. In the meantime Bad Brad earns a bad grade for going faster than the other cars on pit road earning himself a penalty and costing him a shot at the win.

C for Goodyear Tire for All Star Race

Why do NASCAR and Goodyear feel obligated to bring the exact same tire to the track for a race which has a 25 lap segment as the longest run and for a 600 mile race the following week? Yes it makes sense to the teams to use the same tire so they get practice time before the big race but the whole idea of an All Star Race is to put on an All Star quality race! Using a much softer tire with more grip for the All Star Race is something NASCAR and Goodyear need to think about for the future good of this event.

B for Kurt Busch

Nobody worked harder on the track on Saturday night than Kurt Busch. He tried everything he could to get the lead in two of the segments throwing caution to the wind. He made a very bold move to get the win in the fourth segment and trying for the lead in the final segment cost him a position. Kurt has to be considered one of the favorites heading to the 600 this weekend.

A for Denny Hamlin and His Pit Crew

The All Star Race is all about teamwork with the unique rules for qualifying and for the race which is why this is the only race the pit crew gets recognized during driver introductions. The 11 team showed why they have consistently been the fastest over the last two seasons by pulling off an incredible stop gaining five positions on the final pit stop. OK so you can suggest that having the first pit stall helped them but they earned that with an amazing pit stop earlier in the day when their driver missed the pit stall slightly and they still got the pole! Denny Hamlin also deserves a ton of credit for an amazing drive during the segment when they took two tires and for an aggressive move stalling the progress of Kevin Harvick.

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Fantasy Insight- Sprint All Star Race Cinderella Story

Handicapping a NASCAR race is very similar to handicapping a horse race. Some drivers are “Horses for Courses” performing better at certain lengths or styles of tracks. By incorporating three basic ingredients in a special formula based on statistical analysis of 15 years of racing data the Pro Power Ratings have been developed. Just like Beyers Figures in horse racing the best pick is not always the highest rated competitor but reaching threshold values narrows the competition down to the most likely picks to click on race day. Each week I will give you my picks for the top three positions shown in horse racing terms as Win, Place and Show along with a longshot and sleeper pick.

Charlotte Notes-This is the 4th year in a row that this left side tire has been used at Charlotte but this will be the first year for the right sides that will include the multi-zone tread design. This is the same right side tire used at Texas this year. Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr and JJ Yeley participated in the March test at Charlotte.

Threshold Qualifiers- 21 drivers qualify for being a contender by meeting the 80 pt minimum with only 3 reaching the minimum of 90pts to qualify as a top contender

Top Tier 90 or More

  1. Kevin Harvick

  2. Jimmie Johnson

  3. Ryan Newman

Second Tier 85-89.99

  1. Kasey Kahne

  2. Joey Logano

  3. Matt Kenseth

  4. Jamie McMurray

  5. Jeff Gordon

  6. Brad Keselowski

  7. Kurt Busch

  8. Martin Truex Jr

  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr

Third Tier 80-84.99

  1. Carl Edwards

  2. Denny Hamlin

  3. Kyle Busch

  4. Austin Dillon

  5. Clint Bowyer

  6. Kyle Larson

  7. AJ Allmendinger

  8. Aric Almirola

  9. Paul Menard

Win Pick- Kyle Busch- A win for the #rowdyreturns race would be the ultimate Cinderella story

15 to 1 Odds

Place Pick- Kevin Harvick- Hard not to include him in your top 3 any given week

7 to 2 Odds

Show Pick- Jimmie Johnson- Formerly known as the “House That Jimmie Named”

5 to 1 Odds

Longshot Special (20 to 1 Odds or Greater)

Ryan Newman- Strong rating here and on this kind of track and could pull off the huge upset

40 to 1 Odds

Sprint Showdown Race

Martin Truex Jr- The favorite to visit Victory Lane in the showdown race

18 to 1 Odds

Sleeper Pick (C Group in Yahoo Fantasy Racing)

NA

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Making the Grade- Kansas Sponge Bob Edition

After each NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend I hand out one grade for each letter grade and a review of the television broadcast and event too. Race fans seldom agree with my opinion but it is hard to get 10 race fans to agree on whether it is partly cloudy or mostly sunny most days. Let’s get the red marker out and grade the race at Kansas Speedway.

And now on with the show…

Race Grade: B

It is tough to rate a race that requires a fan to watch it in two parts. The racing this season on the intermediate tracks has been worse than the last two years. This race gets a bit of a pass because of the rain and the restarts were interesting as usual.

Television Broadcast: B+

Fox Sports 1 can hire themselves out to bring rain to the parched areas of the world by offering to broadcast a NASCAR race. This has been a rough year for the crew with rain delay theater on what almost seems like a weekly basis.

F for Denny Hamlin’s Whining

Race car drivers are notorious for wanting the race officials to call a race to their benefit. If you are leading by 10 seconds the last thing you want is a caution. But if you are the driver behind by 10 seconds every tissue paper becomes a huge piece of debris threatening your safety. Denny whined that NASCAR failed to throw a timely caution when he spun and said it was over 7 seconds that his car was sitting sideways across the track. Apparently Denny isn’t sure how long 7 is…

D for Joey Logano and Team on Pit Lane

This was a rough race for Joey Logano off the track. It is tough in today’s NASCAR to rally from one penalty but Logano almost rallied from two separate penalties to a fifth place finish. I sure nobody in NASCAR fan land suggests that you can’t make a pass with these rules because Logano passed the entire field once and all but four cars the second time.

C for Last Pit Stop Decision for 78 Team

There is no doubt the 78 team and driver Martin Truex Jr were in an awful predicament when the caution flag flew with just nine laps to go in the race. The pit crew had lost positions almost every time they came to pit lane and it was clear they were concerned about having enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. But if you are going to pit in that situation you need to take two tires not go gas only unless everyone else stops for tires in that sequence.

B for Joey Logano on the Track

Joey Logano has been the best non Chevy driver in 2015 on every kind of race track but has been especially fast on intermediate size tracks. Rallying from one pit road mistake is impressive but when you get penalized twice and still finish in the top five you have earned your pay in the driver’s seat for that race. (Except of course one of the penalties was driver error) Nobody passed more cars at Kansas than Joey Logano and he is still younger than Austin Dillon. (Phrase used with permission of LAM)

A for Jimmie Johnson

In horse racing in Great Britain you can place wagers during a race. While Jimmie Johnson went off as at 6 to 1 odds in Las Vegas in the Sponge Bob Square Pants 400 those odds would have soared to 20 to 1 odds at least when he spun just six laps into the race. As usual team and driver didn’t panic and used a combination of pit strategy and great driving to race back to the front of the pack. One final pit road gamble put the race win in the hands of Jimmie Johnson and the best driver in today’s NASCAR got the job done.

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Fantasy Insight- Talladega 1

Fantasy Insight- Talladega 1

Handicapping a NASCAR race is very similar to handicapping a horse race. Some drivers are “Horses for Courses” performing better at certain lengths or styles of tracks. By incorporating three basic ingredients in a special formula based on statistical analysis of 15 years of racing data the Pro Power Ratings have been developed. Just like Beyers Figures in horse racing the best pick is not always the highest rated competitor but reaching threshold values narrows the competition down to the most likely picks to click on race day. Each week I will give you my picks for the top three positions shown in horse racing terms as Win, Place and Show along with a longshot and sleeper pick.

Talladega Notes- The same tires will be run here that were run last Fall. There was no testing at Talladega prior to this race.

Threshold Qualifiers- 23 drivers qualify for being a contender by meeting the 80 pt minimum with only 10 reaching the minimum of 85pts to qualify as a potential winner and o I the top tier of 90pts or more.

Top Tier 90 or More

None

Second Tier 85-89.99

  1. Clint Bowyer

  2. Kevin Harvick

  3. Matt Kenseth

  4. Ryan Newman

  5. Martin Truex Jr

  6. Brad Keselowski

  7. Jimmie Johnson

  8. Jeff Gordon

  9. Kurt Busch

  10. Joey Logano

Third Tier 80-84.9

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr

  2. David Ragan

  3. Greg Biffle

  4. Austin Dillon

  5. Kasey Kahne

  6. Denny Hamlin

  7. Paul Menard

  8. Aric Almirola

  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr

  10. Kyle Larson

  11. Carl Edwards

  12. Jamie McMurray

Win Pick- Clint Bowyer- My upset special of the year

18 to 1 Odds

Place Pick- Kevin Harvick- Each week it is impossible not to include in top picks

12 to 1 Odds

Show Pick- Dale Earnhardt Jr- Not picking an Earnhardt at Dega would be Un-American

8 to 1 Odds

Longshot Special (20 to 1 Odds or Greater)

Ryan Newman- RCR is always good at plate tracks and so is Newman

30 to 1 Odds

Sleeper Pick (C Group in Yahoo Fantasy Racing)

David Ragan- Last chance to pick him in 18 car and excellent at Dega

20 to 1 Odds

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Fantasy Insight- Richmond 1

Fantasy Insight- Richmond 1

Handicapping a NASCAR race is very similar to handicapping a horse race. Some drivers are “Horses for Courses” performing better at certain lengths or styles of tracks. By incorporating three basic ingredients in a special formula based on statistical analysis of 15 years of racing data the Pro Power Ratings have been developed. Just like Beyers Figures in horse racing the best pick is not always the highest rated competitor but reaching threshold values narrows the competition down to the most likely picks to click on race day. Each week I will give you my picks for the top three positions shown in horse racing terms as Win, Place and Show along with a longshot and sleeper pick.

Richmond Notes- Almost 20% of the winners have started on the pole with 78% starting from a top ten position so qualifying is very important here. Teams will be competing on the same tire used last year here. Brad Keselowski was the top rated driver that participated in the tire test earlier this month which also included Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, and AJ Allmendinger.

Threshold Qualifiers- 22 drivers qualify for being a contender by meeting the 80 pt minimum with only 11 reaching the minimum of 85pts to qualify as a potential winner.

Top Tier 90 or More

  1. Jeff Gordon

  2. Kevin Harvick

  3. Brad Keselowski

  4. Joey Logano

Second Tier 85-89.99

  1. Ryan Newman

  2. Matt Kenseth

  3. Carl Edwards

  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr

  5. Jamie McMurray

  6. Kurt Busch

  7. Martin Truex Jr

Third Tier 80-84.9

12 Clint Bowyer

13 Tony Stewart

14 Kyle Larson

15 Kasey Kahne

16 Aric Almirola

17 Paul Menard

18 Denny Hamlin

19 Ricky Stenhouse Jr

20 Jimmie Johnson

21 Austin Dillon

22 Danica Patrick

Win Pick- Kevin Harvick- Will bounce back from freak accident to dominate again

9 to 2 Odds

Place Pick- Brad Keselowski- Should qualify up front and stay up front all race

6 to 1 Odds

Show Pick- Jeff Gordon- Needs to find that old killer instinct to finish off a win

10 to 1 Odds

Longshot Special (20 to 1 Odds or Greater)

Kyle Larson- Young Money is due for a trouble free race

20 to 1 Odds

Sleeper Pick (C Group in Yahoo Fantasy Racing)

Danica Patrick- She makes the 80pt cut for Power Ratings this week

300 to 1 Odds

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Odds and Ends: #ByrnesStrong and Safety Hypocrisy Edition

#ByrnesStrong

Editor’s Note- The first part of this article was written before the news of Steve Byrnes’ passing

When I first heard about Bristol Motor Speedway naming their race in honor of Steve Byrnes it hit me like a kick to the groin. If there was ever a media member or anyone in the NASCAR community that deserved such an honor it is Steve Byrnes. The man is a total class act and one of the few guys in the NASCAR media that it is impossible to find someone say anything bad about. The reason this hit me like a kick in the groin is because when I saw them do this I knew any hope for Steve’s recovery was gone. This took me back 22 years to the ESPY Awards when Jim Valvano spoke accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award. Watching him give his eloquent speech gave me that same feeling that all hope was gone. Miriam Webster would be well advised to post a picture of Steve Byrnes for their entry for the word “Professional.” Nobody ever did it better before Byrnes, nobody does it better right now and nobody is likely to do it better in the future. Steve Byrnes’ smile is seared into the memory banks of every NASCAR fan who has watched the sport over the past three decades. Legions of reporters grew up watching this guy do everything with class, grace and professionalism in an era where “Gotcha Journalism” is now the rule. Steve Byrnes understood that the sport of auto racing is supposed to be fun! Watching #ByrnesStrong trend on Sunday and seeing all the tributes was great because it won’t be long before that fateful day we hear the bad news. I am glad Steve got to see and hear just how much he is loved in the NASCAR community. I sure hope I am wrong to be so pessimistic and we will see Steve Byrnes back in time to see Kyle Busch return to NASCAR racing! I hope we get to see that Steve Byrnes’ smile again and again but sadly I have resigned myself to expecting the worse. Twenty-two years ago Jimmy Valvano taught us all “Don’t Give Up Don’t Ever Give Up.” Steve Byrnes has taught us that the true meaning to the #ByrnesStrong thing is to still be able to smile on a selfie while cancer is invading too many cells in your body. I have no clue how the man can do it. Maybe we will all learn to bitch a little less about all of the trivial crap that we complain about every day as our tribute to the hash tag about Steve Byrnes.

Note from DMIC: When I wrote this article first thing on Tuesday morning as is my usual routine I didn’t expect to hear the bad news so soon. You have been and will always be missed by this NASCAR fan Mr. Byrnes…you showed everyone how to do the job you loved to do so much!

NASCAR’s Safety Hypocrisy

Ask NASCAR a question about why they do anything and they play the “Safety Card” with as much robust zeal as supporters of President Obama play the “Race Card” whenever someone complains about his work as President. Why are you unhappy about all of those debris cautions NASCAR fan and competitors…don’t you know NASCAR has your safety in mind? No NASCAR Crew Chiefs you can’t use bleeder valves for your tires to maintain a reasonable tire pressure from the start to the end of a fuel run…don’t you know NASCAR is worried about those unsafe gadgets? Don’t you dare complain about those tires being hard as bricks NASCAR drivers and Crew Chiefs…don’t you understand that NASCAR is worried about your safety? After the Cup race on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway they shouldn’t be allowed to play the “Safety Card” every again. The Air Titan Crew let the media know that the track should be dry by 3pm ET but NASCAR suddenly hurried the start time up even though the radar looked ominous. The rain started back up and NASCAR was still trying to hustle more laps in before the first Red Flag. This might have led to a crash that took out both of the Penske cars. The next two times rain came NASCAR again let them race just a little too long. NASCAR had the right intentions by putting on a show for the fans but it sure looks like a case of NASCAR Safety Hypocrisy when they allowed racing on a less than dry race track.

Wimpy Cars and Wimpy Drivers

NASCAR drivers and NASCAR race cars used to be tough. Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway we saw the latest chapter of how wimpy NASCAR drivers have become. Everyone remembers the stories of drivers getting back in their NASCAR race car with broken bones or eyes that needed to be taped open so they could compete. This week a sore neck sidelined driver Denny Hamlin at Bristol. Denny felt well enough to be up on the pit box and even turned his head on live television to talk to the coach Joe Gibbs. During a rain delay he was on one knee sticking his head in the car to coach replacement driver Erik Jones. NASCAR drivers used to get off the stretcher to go back out and race. I’m sure Denny Hamlin did what he thought was right in order to keep his championship hopes solid later in the season. I just hope he doesn’t get a paper cut or a hang nail the morning before the championship race at Homestead-Miami. But the drivers are not the only part of NASCAR that has turned wimpy. Back in the day we used to see cars all beat up and still able to come back to win at a short track like Bristol. Sunday we saw what looked like a minor incident sideline Kevin Harvick for many laps because his car got a boo boo. It’s time to reconsider all of this aerodynamic stuff on these cars that are super sensitive even on the short tracks where down force shouldn’t even be a concern. During the 1979 Daytona 500 we saw Cale Yarbrough and the Allisons spin down through the wet grass and come back to race for the win. This year at the Daytona 500 if a car went off the track the damage was terminal. Wimpy cars and wimpy drivers are NOT the NASCAR way!

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Making the Grade- Bristol Marathon Edition

After each NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend I hand out one grade for each letter grade and a review of the television broadcast and event too. Race fans seldom agree with my opinion but it is hard to get 10 race fans to agree on whether it is partly cloudy or mostly sunny most days. Let’s get the red marker out and grade the race at Martinsville Speedway.

And now on with the show…

Race Grade: A-

This race had more twists and turns than a Hitchcock movie! If you like good racing the “New Bristol Way” then you loved this race. If you like wrecks like the “Old School Bristol Way” you loved this race. There was drama wondering if the race would be shortened because of rain that added crazy strategy to the event too. If you didn’t enjoy this race at Bristol you might want to tune off NASCAR racing and start following curling instead.

Television Broadcast: A

You know a rain delay has gone too long when the announcers start interviewing the assistant lug nut glue person on each team! About the only thing we didn’t get was a sing along and knock knock jokes. But the Fox Sports crew did an amazing job at keeping things lively and somewhat interesting until the weather cooperated. The decision to bump a soccer game to bring NASCAR fans coverage on Fox Sports 1 was a great decision and the broadcast was awesome when the racing did begin.

F for NASCAR Decision to Rush Start of the Race

Every time NASCAR is asked about why they throw so many debris cautions they play the safety card. Can anyone explain to me how starting the race before the track was totally dry and continuing to race when the rain returned doesn’t have the same safety concern? Both Penske cars exited early because of this strategy and more cars could have been caught up in that wreck.

D for Penske’s Bad Luck

When both of your cars are taken out in the same wreck at a restrictor plate track you know your team is suffering from bad luck. But when the wreck on a short track only takes out your two cars and they were not battling each other hard for position that is even worse luck. The good news is that both cars have been fast enough each week to be up front for such a wreck.

C for Brett Moffitt

The kid is doing a great job each and every week. But being thrust into action at Bristol on a day when they raced on a less than totally dry track and staying out of trouble all day shows that this kid has talent. It will be interesting to see how good this young driver can be in even better equipment someday.

B for Ricky Stenhouse Jr

This has been an awful year for all of the Roush Racing drivers so far in 2015. Ricky Stenhouse Jr didn’t start his race great but he did stay out of trouble all day. That made up for the lack of speed in his car and allowed him to come home with a 4th place finish which is his best result since this same race one year ago when he finished 2nd.

A for Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth started his racing career running tracks in his home state of Wisconsin that prepared him for racing on tough tracks such as Bristol Motor Speedway. Matt followed the old racing adage that says, “To finish first you need to first finish.” While most of the field was beaten, battered and bruised his car looked pretty fresh. Despite starting on the pole position Kenseth only led 47 laps of the 511 laps with 34 of those laps coming at the end.

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Fantasy Insight- Bristol Spring Race

Handicapping a NASCAR race is very similar to handicapping a horse race. Some drivers are “Horses for Courses” performing better at certain lengths or styles of tracks. By incorporating three basic ingredients in a special formula based on statistical analysis of 15 years of racing data the Pro Power Ratings have been developed. Just like Beyers Figures in horse racing the best pick is not always the highest rated competitor but reaching threshold values narrows the competition down to the most likely picks to click on race day. Each week I will give you my picks for the top three positions shown in horse racing terms as Win, Place and Show along with a longshot and sleeper pick.

Bristol Notes- Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch lead active drivers with 5 career wins at Bristol but none of those wins have come since the track was reconfigured in 2007

Threshold Qualifiers- 22 drivers qualify for being a contender by meeting the 80 pt minimum with only 14 reaching the minimum of 85pts to qualify as a potential winner.

Top Tier 90 or More

  1. Joey Logano

  2. Brad Keselowski

Second Tier 85-89.99

  1. Kasey Kahne

  2. Jeff Gordon

  3. Kevin Harvick

  4. Martin Truex

  5. Paul Menard

  6. Kyle Larson

  7. Matt Kenseth

  8. Jimmie Johnson

  9. Jamie McMurray

  10. Kurt Busch

  11. Ryan Newman

  12. Denny Hamlin

Third Tier 80-84.99

  1. Ricky Stenhouse

  2. Clint Bowyer

  3. Greg Biffle

  4. Austin Dillon

  5. Carl Edwards

  6. AJ Allmendinger

  7. Dale Earnhardt

  8. Aric Almirola

Win Pick- Joey Logano- Won under the lights last year and having another great season

6 to 1 Odds

Place Pick- Kasey Kahne- Only track rating of 90 or above at this track last five starts

20 to 1 Odds

Show Pick- Kevin Harvick- Any track any week this guy has to be in your top three

5 to 1 Odds

Longshot Special (20 to 1 Odds or Greater)

Martin Truex Jr- Team and driver are having a terrific season and he is solid here

25 to 1 Odds

Sleeper Pick (C Group in Yahoo Fantasy Racing)

David Ragan- Use up his group starts while he is in the 18 car

60 to 1 Odds

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