There is only ONE Oklahoma

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Did ya see that?

Last Sunday, a few racing buddies and I got together to watch the debut of the C.O.T. For the most part, I have been a supporter of the C.O.T., however one of my friends is very much against it, so the debating begins from almost the drop of the green flag.

After the 44 had smacked the wall, he commented of how 'fragile' the C.O.T. was and that wreck was proof. I countered with, "yeah, I guess so, it is not like we had never before seen a car back into a wall like that and be done for the day".

Along those same lines there was a 'busted radiator' and once again, my buddy commented on the fragility of the C.O.T. If he was right, I guess radiators have never broke at a track like Bristol where car to car contact is common place.

Then there was the couple of 'cut down' tires and the blame was this time laid on the front 'splitter'. Now there maybe a need to 'narrow' the splitter a bit, but again, it is not like we have never seen tires go down after contact with fender wells.

About midway thru the race he commented that the C.O.T. didn't 'look anything liek a production car especially with that 'ugly rear wing'. My response was to 'get back with my in a couple of a days with a count/ratio of cars he sees on the street that have even a one inch rear spoiler compared to a one or two inch high rear wing. I 'guestimated' the ratio to be at least 20-1 in favor of the wing. We will see what he has to say next Sunday!

Then lastly it was the complaint that 'these guys aren't even racing side by side'. My only comment was 'do they really ever at Bristol'?

The C.O.T. will be work in progress for at least a season or two, and yes, there will be problems that are identified and solutions to those problems will be given.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Witch Hunt begins

Photoshop courtesy of Plaid19 Inc.

I made mention of 'For Sale' the other day (and was recently emailed this pic of how this reference ruffled a few feathers from the Tartan Clad and their 'driver'. Frankly, I have little beef with them other than they maybe a bit short sited if they cannot see the re-occurring theme from year after year. ( they should get over it in time though and may learn, but that is not the point of this blog) Many 19 fans are now on what seems to be a witch hunt to find the cause of a couple of good qualifying runs, only to see the 19 car fall to clinging to the lead lap at the end of the race.

This witch hunt has now been directed to the current crew chief (aka team director) of the 19, Josh Brown, and lets give credit where credit is due for the pic above, for not only being posted on the SFC forum but the 'Pride of Evernham' message board and Plaid 19 Inc as well.

But before passing judgment and burning Brown at the stake, lets take a look at a few things and some history. This 'problem' didn't happen over night.

*The "Southern Gentleman" enter his Cup career in 1999 with a very proven crew chief, Mike Beam. Beam, in 1999 became the first ever crew chief for the Wood Brothers who didn't have the last name that bares the team. But his resume was very deep and successful at that time and continued after, amassing a career record of three Cup victories, 16 poles, 55 top-five and 137 top-10 finishes and before crew chiefing the "Southern Gentleman" had a record of 2 wins, 13 poles, and 77 top-10 finishes . By SFC/Plaid19 standards, thats a pretty impressive career record anyway one looks at it.

Beam lasted two full seasons

*In 2001, enter Pat Tryson coming over from the Roush Racing empire where he CCed the 97 team the two previous years. His career record as a CC includes 62 top 10’s, 34 top five’s, two victories, a win in the 2005 Nextel All-Star and a pole in 264 starts as a Nextel Cup crew chief. Most notably the first career win for ESad at Bristol in 2001.

Tryson also lasted only two years and then went on after ESad left the Wood Brothers for his 'dream job' to a very successful job CCing Mark Martin to two consecutive 'chase' finishes.

*pre-2003 (side bar)
Micheal 'Fatback' McSwain
Some think Nascar Columnist Lee Spencer is either one of the most credible journalist in the business or the opposite, so take this story for what it is worth.

Sources close to Robert Yates Racing say crew chief Michael McSwain's decision to begin a job search came after he tested with 2003 driver Elliott Sadler recently at Kentucky Speedway. Sadler, who was endorsed by McSwain to replace Ricky Rudd, ran four-tenths of a second slower than Rudd ran in a similar test earlier at the track. Sadler says McSwain told him things weren't going to work out. "I was surprised more than anything, but if his heart isn't in it, then he needs to go somewhere else," Sadler says. (Sporting News)(10-28-2002)

So after one test did 'Fatback' saw (or more importantly hear) something that he did not want to be a part of? Who knows, but it is worth mentioning.

*Beginning in the 2003 season RYR the experiment of 'co-crew chiefs' of Raymond Fox and Shawn Parker arrive on the scene. While this short lived experiment was seemingly successful, Robert Yates pulled the trigger very fast when the opportunity to re-hire Todd Parrott.

Fox and Parker lasted about 25 races.

*August of 2003 showed the arrival of maybe the first CC that the 'Southern Gentleman' actually respected. This was also the first CC that ESad really ever 'butted heads' with. It was also the first CC that I ever heard tell the "Southern Gentleman" to quite whining and "shut the F*** up and just drive the car". And lastly, it was also the only CC that ESad ever had, that he as a driver ever really showed the potential and hype he had been given since arriving at the Cup level in 1999.

But mid season in 2005 there seem to be a change. It was at Chicago where ESad had piloted the 38 much of the day in the top 5 only to make the claim in the final portion of the race to have a 'tire going down' and pitted under green. To this day I still remember Parrott's words over the scanner as the 38 left pit road, instructing the crew to 'check the pressures in all those tires'. He was accustom to the very common (almost weekly) 'bad set of tires' excuse, that seem to come out of the "Southern Gentleman's" mic, and this time, it sounds like he wasn't buying it. History records that the tire pressures were at the level they were supposed to be.

Flash forward a month and once again, ESad make a similar claim of a 'tire going down', and Parrott instructed the 38 to 'just stay out and do the best you can, the pit window is in about 20 laps'. 12 or so laps later the 38 blows a tire, and the day has ended, but the "Southern Gentleman" had one last jab of 'I told you so".

flipping a coin would get similar results.

*Exit Todd Parrott mid season and enter 'band aid' CC Kevin Buskirk. Since this truly was a band aid, there is really not much to say. Both the driver and the CC made the best the situation.

*2006 another 'strong willed' CC comes into play in Tommy Baldwin. Now understand this was the CC that RYR had courted for at least 4 previous years and finally got their wish. There were deja vu driver and CC clashes from the past years and even a 'shut the F*** up and drive, we are doing our job' claim heard from the past could be heard.

That 'wish' for RYR lasted less than 7 months when both driver and CC parted ways from the owner.

*Then 'new life' and a sense of rebirth hit the "Southern Gentleman' with the move the Evernham Motorsports. Enter Josh Brown. The last dozen or so races last year were what I would call a 'free pass' as driver/CC/team and even owner were given time to become accustom to one another. This 'free pass' was very important to the expectations of this season, and if there truly was a crew chief problem, there was ample time to identify them. (after all, there has only been four race this season, and only 2 of them the 19 team was 'intact' and not under penalty.)

Does anyone see the problem here yet? After four (really 2) races, there is a contingent of 'paying' SFC fans and also another group of 'tartan clad' fans who feel that the problem lies solely on the CC? Maybe these same fans should stop, look and listen' of the past 8 or so years. I followed those years, and the problem may not be the CC, it just very be well the driver's ability/inability to communicate the car handling to his CC and maybe more importantly, prioritizing the problems. The final two pits stops at Atlanta, and the feedback the the 'Southern Gentleman" gave may have been a clue. He wanted 'to fix a little bit of the two all day problems with the car that the 19 team had not been successful in getting right the past 425 miles, instead of making a call to 'fix the problem that was the biggest'. After listening to teams like the 48 , 20, 24 and a couple of others, its not hard to see and hear that those drivers understand this concept. But then again, they all have more skins on the wall.

In 9 years of being a fan, I have yet to see this and after today's run with the C.O.T. debut I fully expect them to point the finger wrongfully at someone else.

There is no I in the word team. yep I said it. The 19 team is just a micro away of putting the pieces together for the start of a CHASE run. Five races is much too short to point fingers now. But then again we are dealing with people who are publishing cookbooks. (now thats a new concept)

Can't wait to get the emails from this week's near miss, but then again, someone had to tell the CC to only take on one side of tires after the first 'vibration', when the safe play would be to take four tires. (I guess the CC 'listened' this time? funny how that works) After all, that would have only been an extra half a lap (8 seconds) and going out two laps down instead of four. But I am sure that doesn't count. 'Team'....a novel thing

It is audit week once again, so I maybe in the weeds for a few days, but there might be some really fun stuff coming up this weekend. Hope to have some YouTube stuff from it.

Have a good week!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Things We Will Hear this weekend at ThunderValley

So the C.O.T. makes it's maiden voyage this weekend and let the debates begin. But here are few things I'm guessing some naysayers will be talking about most likely before the checkered flag fall Sunday afternoon.

* "The C.O.T didn't gave us any better side by side race."
Racing ANY car that has the weight of a CUP car will not offer much in the way of a side by side racing at a track configuration like Bristol. Since going to a concrete surface in 1992, 'racing' has become more of a 'race' to get to the bottom of the track, and the common way to pass is by heavily over using the chrome horn. This will not change with the C.O.T.

* "The C.O.T. will not save the teams any money."
I guess this depends on how one looks at a comment like this. Ray Evernham has been quoted as saying "it won't save his team any money, but it will help keep future cost down". Now correct if I am wrong, but isn't anything that keeps future cost from rising, actually saving money? The glass is still half full.

*"The C.O.T.'s front air damn splitter is too fragile."
This type of front splitter has been used in the CTS for years now, and that series has had little problems with it. Plus the added dimension of 'adjustability' can only be a positive attribute for the teams.

* "After some recent crashes, the cars are safe enough right now."
That statement is about as far from the truth as it can be. Just because some of the recent crashes have been documented as some of the 'hardest hits' ever registered, doesn't mean that safety should take a back seat.

I understand the reasons why Nascar chose Bristol as one of the first tracks to use the C.O.T. , as it is a track where aero issues really don't come into play as much as most other tracks. However, that being said, the expectations from many (or hoping for this to fail) might be more of a product of the track more than anything. Bristol is Bristol, and that fact is not going to change under the current track configuration. We can still look forward to a plethora of laps under caution, and 20 or so 'little ones' instead of one 'big one'.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sooner Born and Sooner Dead

With the recent death of 'Crazy Ray' (the Dallas Cowboy 'superfan'), I was reminded of a very unique person I had the opportunity to meet years ago.

I don't know what will be written on "Crazy Ray's" head stone, but of all the cliches that could be appropriately written of the death of Cecil Samara, his family chose the best one of all.

"Sooner Born... Sooner Dead"

The obituary that followed in an issue of "The Oklahoman" expresses their sentiments in a paraphrase from his favorite song:

"It can truly be said of Cecil that he was Sooner born, was Sooner bred, and now he is peacefully Sooner dead."

Cecil David Samara, who himself proudly acknowledged he raised "fan" to "fanatic" when it came to University of Oklahoma football, died at age 77 in 1994.

He wanted "Booomer Sooner," played at his funeral, and he hoped everyone would clap along (they did) . However a spokesman at the Funeral Home said the Samara family did make a few compromises if Samara's wishes for his funeral proceedings.

Cecil was buried wearing what he wanted -- an OU tie, an OU belt buckle, his trademark red jacket with an OU pin. His red felt hat will be placed beside him in the casket.His casket was draped per his wishes with three flags -- U.S.A., Oklahoma and OU.

However, the family decided against Cecil's vision of propping his index finger up in a "No. 1" position.

Samara's reputation as OU's No. 1 fan gained him the curiosity and affection of lesser fans across the state. For some 40 years, Samara was a regular sight at home games in the front row behind the team bench. He wore the initials O and U implanted in his front teeth.

He owned a complete red and white wardrobe. He drove to games in a Model T decorated in OU motif, blazing 'boomer Sooner' over a loudspeaker.

When the state began issuing personalized auto tags in 1968, Samara got the first one; it read BIG RED. His home was filled with Sooner souvenirs.

As flamboyant as Samara was in his fandom, he was quietly passionate about his work in the community. He donated to Children's Memorial Hospital and other organizations for ill children and was a supporter of police professionals.

Samara said, in 1982 interview, that he grew up in impoverished neighborhoods of Oklahoma City and was selling newspapers at age 6.

But before he was 10, he also knew how to hitch hike to Norman for football games. He supplemented his third-grade education by dropping into the library on those trips.

Samara owned Big Red Flag Service for 30 years.

Samara didn't die during football season. But he did give instructions that took that into account. He wanted his family and friends to postpone the funeral and go ahead to the game.

Because, he said then, "I'll be upstairs on the 50-yard line watching OU play."

I met Mr Samara in the early 80s and actually got to spend an afternoon with him will doing a paper on 'super fans'. He fit that bill to a Tee.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Four races in

Four races into this young season, and what do we 'know'?

* Toyota needs better 'rice burners'
Well maybe not really if one takes a good look at the new manufacturer entering other race series. It took four years for Toyota to win it's first CART race. Even after spending over 2 billion dollars since 2001, Toyota has yet to earn a Formula 1 race victory. In their CTS debut season, it was not till August before Toyota scored their first win. And just for comparisons sake, When Dodge re-entered Cup, it took 23 races before the manufacturer entered victory lane.

* 'We are getting the band back together'
Both 'true' and 'newbie' Ricky Rudd fans are calling for a Crew Chief change for the 88 team. Of course, topping the short list is stealing Fatback away from the Wood Brothers and his cushy gig. Note to some of the Rudd fans, the problems are not the crew Crew Chief, not the driver, not the owner, it is not the pit crew, or the shop personnel. The problem is 4 or so years of mediocre performance, and that takes time to fix.

* Kenseth a litter bug?
Did anyone else catch the 17 throw a water bottle onto the apron while under caution yesterday? I'm thinking with all the space inside the car, that there might be a better place to 'get rid' of a water bottle than throwing it on the track surface.

* Will Mark Martin really not race this week?
Considering that Martin has said for the past couple of years that he is 'retiring', I'll believe it when I see him 'no show' Friday morning for first Cup practice.

* For Sale?
Like some Rudd fans, it seems that the natives are also getting restless at the "Southern Gentleman's" camp, and pointing fingers at the 19 car director. Sadly what some of these Plaid Clad fans don't seem to realize is that this 'communication' problem has followed Sadler for 8 some odd years now, and close to a dozen or so Crew Chiefs. The 'take one step forward, then two steps back' theory of making in-race chassis changes is not limited to the current 19 CC. But there is one common theme here, and that is the lack of communication and specificity from the person actually behing the wheel and who has a first person feel of what the car is doing, or not doing. This problem is not something new.

* Move over D.W.
As now Dale Jarrett has taken over your position as the past champion to abuse the provisional offered by the governing body. The year that D.W. drove the Tabasco car to lap down finishes in the 40s may not hold a candle to what the 44 team may do this season. Maybe Dale really should race the truck, it couldn't be much worse.

* It is going to happen someday
With the apparent conflicts Nascar is having with 'title sponsorship' rights, and other competitors signing up with teams, there is a firestorm on the horizon. But this firestorm may not be solely a Nascar problem. 'Naming' rights are common place in sports these days, and frankly are a necessity. It is just a matter of time before the NFL allows 'sponsorship' logos on their team's uniforms. When that happens, just what is going to happen when the Dallas Cowboys (lets say they are sponsored by UPS) play a game against the Washington Redskins at 'Fedex Field'? I am thinking Fred Smith in Memphis would not think highly of spending all that money only to have a UPS logo plastered all over 'his' field.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I am officially a GEEK now

There are a few quintessential moments in a person's life and this week I may have just had one of them.

Long story short, last Sunday my 'gaming' computer (yes, I am an online gamer, RFacter and Nascar2005 mods are the bomb) decided to pull a Morgan Shepherd and 'start and park'. Actually, the motherboard, after 5 faithful years of service decided it was time to DNF. So I was left with the task of cannibalizing what I could salvage from my old system, and make a trip to Fry's for an 'upgrade'.

After spending a few hours there debating on motherboards, processors, memory, video cards, hard drives, gaming power supplies and such, and close to $1500 dollars later, the good people at Fry's informed me that they could not guarantee a 'build time'. So that left me with a dilemma. Do I dare venture into the unknown world of 'building' a computer from scratch?

For many people, this is no big deal, but for me it is something of a mystery and something that one doesn't have a good understanding until they actually do it for the first time. After a couple of days of frustration, the new box is finished and working. Now for the never ending task of reloading software.

I have officially become a Geek!

Monday, March 12, 2007

March Madness

Its that time of year again, the time of year where I make about 32 guesses in a half dozen or so NCAA Basketball bracket pools. And of course the bracket that usually does the best is the one that if I can't decide on a winner, I flip a coin to decide which team advances to the next round.

A few observations of this thing we call March Madness:

* The never ending 'selection shows' and subsequent evaluation of the first round pairings. (And some think Nascar pre-race shows are experiencing over-kill)

* Another problem with the selection shows are the 'live' cut aways to some spare team 'waiting' to see if they make it into the tournament and seeing them cheer themselves after finding out they will be traveling across the country to play the number one team in the nation. It was 'fun' to watch the first 10 or so times it was done, but its becoming over-kill.

* The over analysis of the seeding of teams. Does it really matter if a team is a #2 seed opposed to a #3, or the difference of a #1 or a #2 seed.

* Mid court team and sponsor logos which are so large that they are a distraction.

* Head coaches slicking their hair back like they were starring in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" or a Dapper Dan commercial.

* The 15 seed beating the 2 seed myth. This only happens about once in every five or so years. Even a blind dog finds a bone some days, but usually goes through his days hungry.

* Most brackets will be won be predicting the 5/12 and the 8/9 seed winners. I'll be getting the trusty coin out for most of those games.

* And lastly, the teams that got the NCAA 'snub'. Its a sad day when a tournament has a field of 65 teams and there is still some controversy. And some think that a 4 team 'play-off' if college football will solve the BCS? There will always be teams and fans that think they should have made the big dance.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Dreaded "C" Word

Hearing the excuses from the Evernham fans the past few weeks opens up room for much discussion. Excuses like; (a) "How can Nascar penalize the 10 and 19 teams when the teams used the same fasteners the previous year?" (b) "If it is okay last year then it should be okay this year." or (c) "Its Nascar's fault for not catching them last year, but decides to catch them this year". But this blog really isn't about the Evernham cheating with the 10 and 19 cars specifically, but it is more about the premise of when and how a participant gets caught cheating, and how many other times that participant got away with it.

A Recent Sports Illustrated report makes the claim that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews has been directly linked to receiving Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in 2004. Using the excuses sited above, should Matthews have the Scarlet Letter "C" branded on him as a 'cheater'?

A few facts about HGH, Major League Baseball since 2004.
1) Taking HGH in 2004 wasn't technically against Major League Baseball rules, since that substance wasn't added to the banned list until 2005
2) There is no direct evidence that Matthews in 2005 or even 2006 took HGH after the substance was banned by Major League Baseball.
3) To date: Major League Baseball still does not have a proven screening for HGH.

Lets just make a couple of assumptions that Matthews in '04 and as recently as last year did indeed take HGH in order to better his on field performances and apply the same excuses/questions that some a the Evernham fans are using.

1) How can Major League Baseball (and the public in general) penalize Matthews for receiving a substance that was not even illegal under the rules in 2004?

2) If it was okay to use in previous years, shouldn't it be okay to use this year?

3) Its Major League Baseball's fault for not coming up with a test but deciding to make a substance illegal. After all they didn't catch Matthews in '04, '05, or even last year. Why is this year any different?

Now don't get me wrong, I am not defending Matthews in any way, but I am pointing out the bias of the excuses given when it comes to recent Nascar penalties.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cry Me a River, Jack and Ray

Looks like the appeals for both the 17 and 9 teams have been denied and the whining continues from the fans when their driver gets caught with their hands in the cookie jar. (or cheating jar in this case)

Flashback less than a year ago, to a pre-race driver's meeting where the very subject of getting caught cheating. Nascar felt it's hand was force to anti-up the punishment for cheating and this revelation was addressed specifically at this driver's meeting. From that point on, the 'cheating game' had changed. No matter what or how you defined cheating before that driver's meeting, that meant nothing from that point on. The past, simply put was history and not comparable. Even the term 'benchmark' was used by Nascar stating that past penalties were no longer applicable. Cheating, had just had the bar set higher and a new playing field was set in terms of punishment.

I guess both owners didn't get the memo or attended that meeting. Both Jack and Ray have made the excuse that even though Nascar said they would be more severe in the punishments, that the magnitude of the punishments did not compare to similar violations of the past. Were they not listening to Nascar when they stated that the past was history. Like punishing little kids, Nascar threatened and threatened to put cheaters in the 'naughty square' or 'time-out', and finally drew the line in the sand.

After Nascar's announcement of more severe penalties, there were two other 50 point loss violation imposed by the sanctioning body in the 2006 season.

*The number 2 team failed post qualifying inspection during the October Lowes Race for a shock violation. The driver and owner each lost 50 points respectively plus having the Crew Chief suspended and placed on probation, and also a fine

*The number 7 team was fined and docked 50 driver and owner points for 'intentionally causing a caution' when a piece of the car's roll bar was seen on the track.

So Jack and Ray can whine all they want, but it doesn't negate the fact that they were warned many times. they cheated, they got caught, they were told that this year is a new ball game. Now it is time to pay the fiddler.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's Sad but True

I only watch a couple of Busch races a season. There a many reasons for this, but probably the top couple of reasons are, 'the Buschwackers' and too great of a different between the funding of teams. But there is an occasion or two where I am interested in watching a Busch Race. This past weekend was no exception, but the reasons were laced with irony.

It took a race held outside of the U.S. to peak some interest, and a road course race to boot. (I'm not a fan of watching road courses on TeVee in the first place). It took the over hype of a Brazilian driver and his team's mid race mistake which looked to be an 'ender' for the team. It took the refreshing view of the fans in the stands, and their enthusiasm without having to see countless views of the Confederate Navy Jack. It took a network who 'used' to show the whole field, but for some reason yesterday, I would have thought only a handful of cars actually made the field. It took a race that had pit strategy and teams on different tire management. Lastly, it even took a 'race move' that was either brilliant or wreckless.

It's all sad but true, and that's what it took to get this race fan interested in watching a Busch race for the first time this season, and probably since last July or so.