Gambling Sometimes Pays Off

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comBrad Keselowski and his #2 Penske Ford led the only lap that mattered last week at Auto Club Speedway in California, the last one.

He and crew chief Paul Wolfe came up with a pit strategy after a late debris caution, which left the other leaders racing for 2nd place.  While most of the leaders came in to the pits to get 2 fresh tires, Keselowski took 4 new ones.

It paid off, as there was another caution, setting up a Green-White checkered finish and giving Keselowski the time he needed to get up front and take over the lead from Kurt Busch, who had been leading a good part of the race.  Busch, who was out at the first of the year serving a NASCAR mandated suspension, finished 3rd .

Kevin Harvick is on some kind of run!  He drove his #4 car to a 2nd place finish at the Speedway in California.   This finish means that he has finished either first or second in each of the last 8 Sprint Cup Series races.  He’ll have some work to do to get that car to a 9th straight top 2 finish this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, in Virginia.  It is a half mile track where things can get dicey and rough for drivers on the track resembling a paper clip.  The winner of this track wins a grandfather clock as the trophy.  I’m picking Jimmie Johnson to bring home the clock this weekend.

The surprise of the year continues to be the driving of Martin Truex, Jr.  Truex, in his 2nd year driving for Furniture Row , has now finished in the top 10 of all Sprint Cup races this 2015 season.  Like I’ve stated before, it appears Truex and his team has figured something out in this 2nd season.  Another driver who has rebounded nicely since the opening race at Daytona is Ryan Newman.  Since posting a 38th place finish at the Great American Race, Newman has posted 4 consecutive top 10 finishes.  The top 10 at California was Keselowski, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Joey Logano, Martin Truex, Jr, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon.

Total Domination at Richmond

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comI had to stop and think about a few things last Saturday while watching the Cup race at Richmond.

What I thought sounded like a broken record was actually the #2 of Brad Keselowski owning the rest of the field at the last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this week.  Out of 400 laps, Keselowski led 383.  Folks, that is pretty darn good.

Kevin Harvick led the other 17.  So, on this short track, with spots in the Chase field on the line, there were 2 lap leaders.  Unbelievable.  I thought this race would be the NASCAR of old……Drivers bumping, wrecking, and shoving each other out of the way to get the elusive victory and secure a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs.  Unfortunately, though, it was a dud.

Follow Jason on twitter

This was Brad’s fourth win of the season, clinching the top spot in the Chase field.  Followed by Keselowski in the Chase seedings are Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman.  Only Kenseth, Biffle, and Newman have yet to reach Victory Lane this season.  The first driver to not make the Chase was Clint Bowyer, despite a 3rd place finish at Richmond.

So, What’s Next?

In an effort to be more interesting, NASCAR revamped their Chase format this year.  The bottom four Chase drivers are eliminated from contention after the 3rd race, and then points for the remaining 12 still in are reset to 3,000.

After 3 more races, four more are eliminated from contention.  The points will then reset to 4,000 for the remaining 8 drivers.  After the Phoenix race, drivers in positions 5-8 will be eliminated, while the remaining four have their points totals reset to 5,000.

The remaining 4 drivers will duke it out at Miami-Homestead for the right to call himself the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion.

Clear as mud?  I thought so.  Really freakin’ confusing.  So, the first race of the Chase is at Chicagoland Speedway.  How fitting that a sport that is more Southern than Sweet Tea starts It’s playoffs in Illinois.

Got me shakin’ my head for sure.

Think you know SEC football?
Enter the SEC Pigskin Picks
Weekly Online Contest

Another Third-time Winner

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWell folks, we have another third time winner the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Joey Logano joined the ranks of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson as the sport’s only 3 time winners this season. I recalled after the race, Logano was pretty darn good at Bristol earlier this year, until he lost his power steering. After a rain soaked early Friday night and early Saturday morning, the weather for the Irwin Tools night race could not have been any more perfect.

Well, let me take that back.  If it were about 10-15 degrees cooler, it would have been perfect.  We were able to see at least one temper flare on the track, when Denny Hamlin was taken out by Kevin Harvick.  By the way, Dale Jr., was taken out in the same wreck on lap 130.  Hamlin, following NASCAR’s newly implemented rule about not getting out of the car on the track, waited for Harvick to make his way around the track to voice his displeasure as he stood on the track apron.  Hamlin threw his HANS device at Harvick’s car, and I’m pretty sure he was yelling some choice words to the driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet.

Enter and Win!
SEC Pigskin Picks weekly football contest

Hamlin would wind up finishing 40th, 340 laps down, and Junior would finish 39th, 324 laps down.  Harvick’s car looked really good early in the race, but didn’t look as good after this wreck. Kevin would finish 11th out of 43 drivers. Here are your top 10 finishers at Bristol: Logano, followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson (who unbelievably overcame 2 pit road speeding penalties), Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle rounding out the 10.

So, Wonder Boy (Gordon) holds a 27 point lead over Dale Earnhardt, Jr., going into the Labor Day weekend race in Atlanta. Remember, there are only 2 more races before the Chase starts — this week in Atlanta and next week in Richmond. I’m thinking the tow trucks will be busy in Richmond, with a lot of drivers vying to get that elusive victory this 2014 season.

Anyhow, congrats to Joey Logano on his 3rd win this season.

Hope It’s not a snoozer

Cookie cutter tracks are what they are known as.

The 1.5 mile tracks on the circuit. Atlanta is one of them. There could be a lot of green flag racing going on this Sunday night, with cautions only coming out from mysterious debris on the track. Not a whole lot to talk about for this race, since there are numerous other tracks built out of the same mold on the circuit. I hope my predictions for a winner are better this week.  I may be starting to lose some credibility. Look for the #24 of Jeff Gordon to get back to victory lane this week at a track where he runs very well.

Talladega, ‘Bama’s Finest & Skid Mark of the Week

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWhat a weekend.  I am still worn out from all the action taking place in a small town in Alabama with a big race track.  First, my day started out great.  When I got to the track, I accidentally went the wrong way in (was in the outside of 2 turn lanes).  This took me to a place where I had never parked.  I now know why I have never parked there.  Next, some guys I was meeting up with called me to meet them.  Normally, they meet up at the area around the Miller Lite flag between turns 3 and 4.  This year, my friend tells me they are directly under the big American flag, at turn 4.  I walk the hike to the big American flag.  No one is around it.  I mosey on around for a while to try to find them, to no avail.  To make a long story short, I walked over the crosswalk at Flag Drive a total of 4 times trying to find him.  Finally, after about 3 miles on my feet and 30 minutes, I found him.

The Race

It was Talladega.  Last week I heard it described as “The great equalizer.”  That is definitely a perfect description of the track/race.  Much to my surprise, the crowd was very appreciative of the #10 of Danica Patrick leading some laps in the race.  I thought the best 2 cars of the day were the #16 of Greg Biffle and the #88 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  Neither one of them won, though.  The winner would be the #11 car, driven by Denny Hamlin, who has never won at a Superspeedway.  Good race by Hamlin, and by Biffle, who finished 2nd.  It was pack racing from the start, and many drivers couldn’t find their mojo in the lines they were running, but it was still Talladega and a good race.  We didn’t see the 2/3 car tandems we have been accustomed to in the past few years, but we saw groups more than that running together.  Congrats to Denny Hamlin on the victory.

There’s no place like home

KANSAS.  There are a few different drivers to keep your eyes on this week, in Kansas’ first night race ever.  Those cars would be the #48 driven by Jimmie Johnson, the #24 driven by Jeff Gordon, the #16 driven by Greg Biffle, and the #20 driven by Matt Kenseth.  These drivers are vying for their first win of the season, and statistically, these guys are great at Kansas.

Skid Mark of the week

Once again, Brad Keselowski.  First, Brad wrecked himself, when he cut down on Danica Patrick in a corner trying to cut her off and get the lead.  Then, while being 6 laps down, he was pack racing, wrecked, and took out a good number of cars, including the #24 of Jeff Gordon and the #20 of Matt Kenseth, among others.

Richmond International, Repeat Winner and a Right Hook

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWhat a race last week! Richmond turned in one of the most interesting races we have seen in a while. First, there were tires being used and abused all over the place, with NASCAR allowing more flexibility to the race teams to adjust the camber. You ask what camber is….Well, straight from NASCAR .com. “Camber is, simply put, the vertical tilt of a wheel. If it’s bowed out, it’s positive camber, and if it’s bowed in, it’s negative camber. Zero or neutral camber is when the wheel is straight up and down.”  The more camber you have, the better grip you have. This has allowed teams to be more aggressive in their car setups. Since there has been a significance on winning this season to get into the Chase, teams have been more aggressive and overly aggressive, at times. With this being said, we have seen many instances with tires dating back to the Auto Club 400, and now this past week at Richmond. There were multiple cars that had tire issues, including 6-time and defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. This just hasn’t been Jimmie’s year. Wait a second…… As bad sometimes as Jimmie has been, he is still in the top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings. He still needs to get that win, and the pressure is getting heavier, week by week.

Who would have thought that the second 2-time winner of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season would have been Joey Logano. Logano in his #22 Ford was absolutely great on short runs last week at Richmond. The Rick Hendrick cars of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were great on long runs, but when you get late cautions, the cars that are good for short runs prevail. The yellow #22 ran down cars in front of him and took the checkered flag on the .75 mile track in Richmond, Virginia, like a seasoned veteran. He was cool, kept his composure, and even burned the tires off in his post victory burn out. Congratulations, Joey.

After the race, there were shenanigans. Over guess what? Drivers racing for 18th place. Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears got into a little fisticuffs in the pit area after the race was complete. Mears was fined $15,000 and probation until May 28, and Ambrose, who connected on a right haymaker, was fined $25,000 and probation until May 28, as well. So, that one punch that Ambrose laid cost him $10,000. I thought the fight was good for the sport. NASCAR thought it was detrimental to the sport. I obviously disagree.

Alabama, here we come. My first experience at Talladega was one I will never forget. Mainly, because of one unknown guy, Alabama’s finest. This one dude, was wearing cutoff blue jeans. Way up to where you could see his white pockets hanging out of the bottom of his shorts. No shirt. Boots. If this weren’t bad enough, the guy had a prosthetic leg… with Dale Earnhardt bumper stickers all over it. All I have to say is, “C’mon Man.”  Anyhow, I am looking forward to frolicking with Alabama’s finest again this week. Watch for one of the usual suspects to win this race: Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Gordon. Sleeper picks to win this race are David Ragan (last year’s Talladega spring race winner), Ryan Newman, or Paul Menard.

Skid Mark of The Week goes to Brad Keselowski. How can you blame a guy (Matt Kenseth), who is leading the race, for bumping you and trying to protect his lead? Quit whining Brad. You got bumped, and I am sure you would have tried to protect the lead, if you would have had it.

 

 

NASCAR, 2014: Bad Weather and Controversy (What’s New?)

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comEaster weekend seems a perfect time to sit back and reflect on what has come to fruition the first 8 weeks of this very early NASCAR season. A lot of storylines have evolved, so far. First, the number 29 of Kevin Harvick is good for 2 things, a non finish or a win. Heading into Richmond, he is the only driver on the circuit with 2 coveted victories. Aside from the 2 wins, his other races have the NASCAR Gods turning over in their graves. Next, the old man (oldest regular on the circuit), is off to his best start in many years. He is currently the point leader heading into the 9th race of the 2014 season. With the exception of the grass jumping up and tearing up his car at Texas Speedway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr is doing his best impression of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Junior has been consistently running and finishing in the top 5, way more than other drivers. The only thing more consistent than Jr finishing in the top 5, has been the bad weather, so far (I’ll get to that later). Carl Edwards has been another good one, this year, winning at Bristol Motor Speedway (I was there, and it was freakin’ cold!). Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski aka I wanna fight Kurt Busch, and Kyle Busch are your other winners, so far, in this 2014 season.

What would NASCAR be without controversy? First was the tire issue at Fontana at the Auto Club 400. Multiple cars tore up tires, and many tore up cars. The Survivor was Kyle Busch, who benefited from dominant driver Jimmie Johnson cutting a tire very late in the race. Kyle went on to win and secure his spot in The Chase. A week later, Brad Keselowski wanted to fight Kyle’s brother Kurt at Martinsville, over Brad’s screw up. BTW, Kurt was in the right, and Brad was in the wrong. Also, Kurt would have stomped a mudhole in Brad.

I sure hope the weather here on out is better than what we have seen, so far. The weather, for racing, has absolutely sucked. First, Daytona was delayed. I’m not complaining about night racing, but it was a long Sunday night that day. Bristol. I froze my rear end off, along with about 50,000 other brave (or stupid) souls in the mountains of upper east Tennessee that morning/day/evening. Then the Texas soaker that had to be delayed until the next day.

This week is the first of two Richmond night races this 2014 season. It is hard to bet against any Joe Gibbs Racing driver at Richmond, or Jeff Gordon. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Gordon have all been money at this track. If you were to pick a few others to win this week, Tony Stewart, Dale Jr, and Kevin Harvick all have 3 wins at this track (money says if Harvick doesn’t crash/blow up, he will win).

Foolish move of the year, was Dale Jr at Texas. 12 laps into the race, he dips down the track and clips the grass, sending him up the track and into the wall. This resulted in an inexplicable 43rd place finish for the 88 team and injured the 48 car, who by the way is his teammate Jimmie Johnson, in the process. Dale Jr admitted it was a boneheaded move.

Racing stripe of the year belongs to Danica Patrick. Why? Because she can’t finish races on the lead lap and can’t stop hitting everything on the track.

CraftBeerClub.com-The Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner