Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Martinsville, Smoke says "It’s racing the way we all grew up racing"

Tony Stewart and Darian Grubb take brand new chassis # 14-637 to Martinsville, in an effort to capture Smoke's third win at Martinsville Speedway. In addition to his two wins, Stewart has three poles, six top-threes, eight top-fives, 13 top-10s and has led a total of 1,194 laps in his 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville.

Smoke talked about what he likes about racing at Martinsville? "It’s still that old short track feel. That’s what I like." Stewart said. "We run a lot of 1.5-mile tracks during the year and it’s the only place that races like this. We’ve got two half-mile tracks that we race on. This one’s quite a bit different than Bristol, and that’s what makes it fun. You can out-brake guys and you can run the outside if you get a shot. It’s racing the way we all grew up racing."

Crew Chief Darian Grubb was asked what goes into making a car good at Martinsville. Grubb said "It’s all about the weight distribution and then comfort for the driver – getting everything exactly the way the driver would like to have it. His preference for every little detail from entry to the center of the corner and exit and braking, the throttle application – everything has to be just right, because Martinsville is all about rhythm. Rhythm is what’s going to give you a chance for the pole. Making sure everything is right and making sure you can get every little piece out of the car. In order to go as fast as possible, you have to get the most out of everything that you can get. Every foot of the straightaway and all through the corners – it’s tenths of seconds here and there that really add up. The whole field is probably separated by two- to three-tenths of a second."

Stewart is currently sixth in the Sprint Cup championship point standings. He has 170 points and is 17 points behind series leader Carl Edwards. His most recent win came 11 races ago on Oct. 10 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. His last pole came 20 races ago on July 30 at Pocono. Stewart has won at least one race in each of his 12 previous years in Sprint Cup, the longest such streak among active drivers. Both of these streaks could come to an end this week in Virginia.

Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

NHMS Scoreboard Getting Final Touches

The old scoreboard stands in the shadow of the new
Panasonic video board at NHMS
A piece of history was removed in Loudon today, as the old "top seven leaderboard" scoreboard was torn down, in preparation for New Hampshire Motor Speedway's  new 80 ft tall, 1.2m Panasonic video board. Steel framework which will support the three 32-foot-by-18-foot Panasonic TV screens was placed atop it's perch, while the old scoreboard with be auctioned off, with all proceeds benefiting the New Hampshire Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities. Below the video boards, a scrolling leaderboard with color graphics that displays running positions and lap times for all 43 drivers, along with interesting race statistics and event information will keep NASCAR and INDYCAR fans better informed on raceday.

Photo Credit: Courtesy NHMS

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kyle Busch Hasn't Won At Martinsville...Yet

Kyle Busch
In NASCAR's top three series, Kyle Busch has accumulated 91 wins. One thing his racing resume lacks is a win at the half mile oval of Martinsville. If he is able to break through this weekend, he'll only need wins at Pocono and Indianapolis to have won at all 23 Sprint Cup venues. This week, he'll sport the livery of Pedigree brand dog foods on his #18 Camry as he tries to get another victory in his impressive young career.

"I’m getting better at Martinsville, so watch out this weekend with our Pedigree Camry.". Rowdy said, when asked about Martinsville. "I think Denny has that place pretty figured out. He’s going to be hard to beat there, that’s for sure. But with my success at Bristol and Richmond, it’s been fun and I feel like Martinsville has been getting better for us. We’re getting there. Thanks to Dave (Rogers, crew chief), we’ve really worked hard at that. We kind of feel like we have a baseline – a better baseline that we can unload with and be faster off the truck. That’s a big benefit for us. As far as having the same three guys winning all the short-track races in recent years, you know, just look at the competition today. At Bristol, there were some good cars that raced up front and battled up front at times during the race. They didn’t quite have it when it mattered most, to keep themselves up front and in position to win the race. That’s what we did and, probably what you see from the three guys who do that every time, it’s that they’re just a little bit better at being able to do that."

One of the interesting things on Busch's resume is the fact that he is tied with Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty for the most wins before the age of 26. Pretty lofty company The Shrub runs in. He addressed this subject when he stated "I beat them to 25, but they beat me to 26. I didn’t win enough this year from May 2 (Rowdy's birthday) to May 2. There are still some opportunities for some more wins. Essentially that’s what it tells me. That’s what I read into it when you say I was the highest winner to 25, but now I’m not to 26. It’s interesting. It has all come at such a young age, but there have been guys who have been here at a young age, too, who have been just as successful. You say the guys – (Richard) Petty and (Jeff) Gordon – and (Jimmie) Johnson is another one of those guys. He wasn’t quite as young, but when you look at his career and how long he’s been here from 2002 – his rookie year to where he is now – going on 10 seasons, 54 wins or whatever it’s been. He’s a guy you look at and say, ‘Man, he’s done a lot in a short period of time, and five championships and everything else.’ Never finishing outside the top-five or 10 in points, or whatever. He’s a guy everybody would like to be if they had their choice and could pick somebody to follow after. We’ll see how things go here in the next few weeks, and next few years and through my career, but all in all it’s been good, so far. There’s plenty more time for it to grow."
Martinsville Speedway

Busch's best finish at the paperclip shaped oval is 4th, which he done four times. He spoke of how to approach Martinsville when he said "It’s just a short racetrack and you’ve got to try to have a good car. But it’s hard to have a good car there with the field as tight as it is. Qualifying up front seems to help out a little bit. We know who the guys are who are going to be tough there. Really, there’s nothing you can change about that racetrack to stay out of trouble. Basically, you can be leading the race and have a wreck in front of you while you are trying to lap some guys, and that could be it."

After watching Kevin Harvick talk this past weekend about learning from Jimmie Johnson, it appears that the younger Busch could learn some patience at a place like Martinsville. A win at H. Clay Earles' flat short track could signify a next step in Busch's growth as a driver.

Photo Credit:   Busch; Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR  / Speedway; Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Ryan Newman: " the driver has a little more of an impact" at places like Martinsville.

NASCAR's traveling road show heads to the half mile short track Martinsville Speedway. Second place Ryan Newman has quietly had a very consistent early '11 season. His #39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevy has been a model of consistency in the first five races. "I keep saying it, but I’m really just so proud of everything that Stewart-Haas Racing has accomplished in these first five races." Ryan Newman said recently. Newman looks to build on the successes this weekend at the fat half mile oval in Virginia.

Ryan Newman
In 18 career starts at Martinsville Speedway, Ryan Newman has three poles, six top-five finishes and nine top-10s. With five races completed so far, Newman has posted four solid top-10 finishes, fifth-place at Phoenix, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Fontana, Calif., along with a 10th-place effort at Bristol Motor Speedway. Newman has also led laps in four of the five races so far this season. In fact, Newman led the most laps (37) at Daytona International Speedway in the Daytona 500, which was a first for Newman and the #39 team at any race since they came together in '09. To say that the #39 team is on a roll as they head to Martinsville glosses over the early part of the season thus far. Flyin' Ryan is second in points, just nine behind leader Carl Edwards, off to the best start since his rookie campaign in 2002, when he finished sixth in the championship and earned the 2002 Rookie of the Year title.

"I didn’t know it’s my best start since 2002. That’s a while back but, for us, it’s been a really great start for our season by our standards that we set in the past two years, which we weren’t proud of, but we always knew we were capable of more." Newman said.

Newman was asked what is it about short tracks that he likes. "I like using the middle (brake) pedal. In all seriousness, I think it adds another parameter of a driver’s input when you have to modulate that third pedal. We have to go to places like Las Vegas and you’re using very little brake. When you are using a little bit, it’s hard to screw it up. I think our team has done a really good job with the brake package that we have. I like the short tracks. I like having the character added to the program of modulating the brake. In my opinion, the driver has a little more of an impact on the end result at short tracks than some of the bigger racetracks, and I like that. The more the drivers are involved, the more I think you get to race and, from that standpoint, I think it’s more fun. Tony Gibson (crew chief) has some great setups with our short-track program. I enjoy them, he enjoys them, and we just go out there and have some fun. We’ve had a good car each time we’ve been to Martinsville. Gibson is a great fan of Martinsville and short-track racing, and he’s got a great understanding of the racecar there and what I like, and that makes a big difference, obviously, for me. We’ve been able to get three top-10 finishes in our four trips to Martinsville. Last fall, we had a rare issue that took us out of contention, so we’re looking forward to getting back on a streak of good runs at Martinsville."

The last nine races have been won by Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Nine. Races. Newman talked about the competition level, and how well the #48 and #11 have run. "I think the competition is still really close I just think those guys have risen to the top at that racetrack, which is entirely unique to anything else we have on the schedule. I think that, in itself, Martinsville being Martinsville is part of it. The other part of it is the drivers have to really modulate that brake pedal, which is another part of it. You can have the best car there and burn the brakes off of it and finish 35th. I have actually blown two tires out, melted the beads on two tires at one time and blew both of them at the same time, which I thought was pretty cool, afterwards. But seriously, we’ve been good there – we have been really good – especially on Fridays, and we seem to start off a little slow on Sundays and end up in the top-five or top-10. I thought last fall was going to be a good race for us had we not lost a gear because we were leading at the time. I think we have made some pretty big gains to try to catch those guys and surpass them, so I think the No. 39 team is looking forward to getting back to a track that has been really good for us."

Monday, March 28, 2011

FVP Monday Night All Stars: INDYCAR Grid Girls

Sunday, the IZOD IndyCar Series kicked off the 2011 season at St. Petersburg. The race was won by Dario Franchitti, who dominated, leading 94 laps. ABC's broadcast of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27 delivered its highest overnight rating in metered markets for a race since 2007. "We're ecstatic with our ratings and with the double digit percentage of growth with the live attendance at the event, and we believe INDYCAR is going to continue to make substantial progress in the next couple of years." INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said.

In celebration of Franchitti's win, and of a positive start to the 2011 season, tonight's FVP All Star's are the Tampa Bay Bucs Grid Girls, who helped kick off yesterday's events. Enjoy. You can follow FVP on facebook by clicking here.

Photo Credit : Top and Bottom, Dana Garrett, Middle, Chris Jones

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Boston Bruins: A Ray Of Hope?

View from the Sin Bin 1.5

The Boston Bruins may drive us all to drink. The Black-and-Gold this week continued on their enigmatic ways…looking like the best team in the NHL one day and one of the worst the next. The highlight of the week was an epic, 7-0 beatdown of the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden. This was the big rematch after the Chara-Pacioretty incident. The win came two days after another huge, get-back-on-track performance against the New Jersey Devils. But the B’s closed out their three-game homestand at 2-1 with a lackluster outing against the New York Rangers, who shut out the Bruins 1-0. Nice playoff-style win tonight in Philly…2-1 over the Flyers. Good puck movement and happy to see the Hub’s finest didn’t sit back and wait for the Flyers to pound the net.

Congratulations Milan Lucic for goal number 30. And to rookie sensation Brad Marchand for number 20.
The offense needs to be more consistent for this team to go deep into the playoffs. The power play must come out of its coma. The defense has improved somewhat and the Twin T’s (Tim and Tuukka) seem to have recovered from a mini slump. This team needs to consistently bring the high-energy, speed-and-hitting game it has shown flashes of recently. When they crash and bang they score and win; when they sit back and wait for the play to come to them they blow 2-goal leads late.

Sad news about Marc Savard. Media reports say he’s having memory problems as a result of his concussions. That lends itself to the tragic possibility that not only may the crafty playmaker’s career be over, he may never be the same person. Hope you’re proud of yourself, Matt Cooke.

Speaking of Cooke…was that actually contrition from the game’s dirtiest player this week? Nah…doubt it. The NHL suspended Cooke for the rest of the season and the first round of the playoffs for his blatant elbow to the head of Ranger’s defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Cooke said he was sorry and would change his ways. Please. Fool me twice, shame on me…or in this case three times by my count (not including the non-suspension for the hit on Savard). Sin Bin to Colin Campbell: Grow a pair. Send him packing. For good.

3/27/11 tjz

Harvick Steals A Win, Leads Only The Last Lap To Beat Johnson and Rowdy

Kevin Harvick celebrates the win at Fontana
Kevin Harvick lived up to his reputation as a great "closer" of races, as he led only one lap, but it was the money lap. Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson on the white flag lap to steal the Auto Club 400 from Johnson and third place finisher Kyle Busch, who had led 151 of the 200 laps today in Fontana, California.

On the final restart with nine laps to go, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson dueled getting into turn 1, before Busch pulled away. Harvick was sixth behind Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman. Harvick quietly moved into 4th with seven to go.

Johnson reeled the #18 coming to the start finish with four to go. At this point, radio chatter could be heard "The 29's coming real hard, about 10 (car lengths)back." as spotters told the #18 and the #48 that Happy was fast.

With three to go, Harvick had seemingly come from nowhere to engage the two leaders. Busch got into turn one way to deep, and Harvick was able to get by and tuck up under Johnson at the white flag.

Harvick stayed high coming off two, while Johnson stayed in the middle. Harvick was able to get to Johnson's bumper, pushing him deep into three. Harvick was able to carry his momentum through the highline of three and four, and dive across Johnson's line to steal the win by a car length.

"I was after one thing and that was to run the very top of the racetrack." Harvick said post race. "I was hoping that he thought he was going to be going too fast to run the top of the racetrack and get loose. I guess in hindsight he was looking for the bottom or the middle or whatever he was looking for. I just wanted to roll in as easy as I could and lay back to the throttle, go into the center of the corner, hopefully be able to leave it down on the exit. It all played out okay."

Happy added "I think, you know, for me, I always was taught to race, just go fast enough to put yourself in position to be around at the end and make sure your car still has all the fenders and tires and everything still underneath it. When it's time to go, you have a little something left, your car is hopefully fresher than the guys around you."

"For me coming to the white, I had a great run off of turn four and was able to get right on him. Rolling into one, my whole goal was to not give it away. If I could make the pass, fine. If not, just don't overdrive it getting into the corner, make sure you get the pedal down as soon as you can and roll through the middle, not get in the fence, not screw anything up. I rolled through there really good, was able to get back to the throttle on the top and had a good run. He slid up in front of me. I knew if I went low that I was not going to be -- that was bad for me, the bottom was. So I just pushed him, hoping that I just needed that one lane to open up up top, and it opened up. We were able to roll through there. My whole theory was not to drive it in again and get back to the throttle, so it all worked out."

Busch was decidedly disappointed, having led 151 laps. "Just real, real unfortunate and frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today. Just come down to the last few laps there with Jimmie first and then Kevin got into it, too, with us. You ask a little bit more from your racecar at the last moments, it doesn't have anything left to give. You're essentially a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you. Couldn't get any more out of the car. That was it. It would push, get loose, that was all we had."

Johnson tipped his hat to Harvick, on how Harvick's final push sealed the win for the #29. "Just because of the speed and the push that he gave me, where he gave me, I would have gone into the corner and missed the bottom, gone into there with too much speed. Him being close certainly affected my car. He did exactly what he needed to. I was on the loose side. If I was in his shoes, I would have done the same thing. The closer you can get to the car in front of you when they're loose, the harder it is for that guy to use the power. You have a good shot to pass them."

Harvick’s victory in the Auto Club 400 was the 15th of his Sprint Cup career, his first of the season and his first at Fontana. Johnson finished .144 of a second behind him in the runner-up spot, while Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.

Below, Harvick talks about learning from Johnson in 2010.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
Video credit : Courtesy NASCAR

Dario Franchitti Survives Early Double File Restarts To Dominate INDYCAR Season Opener At St. Pete.

After coming back from a practice crash, 2010 IZOD Series champion Dario Franchitti started the 2011 season pretty much right where he left off. Franchitti was dominant, leading nearly wire to wire in today's IZOD INDYCAR season opener at St. Petersburg. Franchitti finished 7.1612 seconds ahead of The Man With The Best Name In Auto Racing, Will Power. Tony Kanaan, who had four practice sessions in the #82 GEICO KV Racing Technology-Lotus car, finished third and second-year racer Simona de Silvestro finished a career-best fourth in the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing car.

Franchitti leads Tony Kanaan at St. Pete.
Race winner Franchitti said post race "The caliber of teams and drivers that we are up against shows what the Target Chip Ganassi team did today. It is great to be here in the sunshine of St. Petersburg with the stands full and the Target car was running like a dream. I was focused on what Will Power was doing and that was a good moment when we got around him on the second restart. I thought we aren't going to win this Championship by just sitting back. There are still a lot of races to go and we are taking it one at a time. I am ready to go back to Barber after the test there earlier in the season."

"It was a very interesting start today. Dario Franchitti got me fair and square at the beginning. When we had all of the restarts after caution periods, we got hit hard and went into neutral. We dropped to seventh position but were able to get back up to second again. I was in survival mode after getting hit. I struggled a lot on the blacks today and I was trying to hold Tony Kanaan off as he was hounding on me from behind. I am very glad to get the points for the championship. It was a good start to the season for Verizon Team Penske." second place finsher Will Power said.

Andretti rides Dixon in a turn 1, lap 1 wreck.
The race started out rough, with a 6 car wreck heading into turn 1 at lap 1. Marco Andretti made an aggressive move heading into turn one, gaining multiple positions as he accelerated from his starting position in row four. He and Helio Casteroneves got inside Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway as the field jammed up in turn one. Castroneves may have gotten into Andretti, who ended up on top of third place driver Scott Dixon, collecting Dixon, Conway, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay and Oriol Servia.

"Someone obviously went into the first corner too hard, and it's a bit silly really - the first lap of the race and a long way to go. It's a shame for the car was good all weekend and were easily on for a top result. It's a shame for the Andretti team. We were all in a position to have a good result." Mike Conway said of the incident.

Ryan Briscoe said "I haven't seen the replay yet, but I think Marco [Andretti] out-braked himself into the first turn, and the result was just unfortunate. Overall, it's a shame because IZOD has come on board this year, and I wish we could've had a better result for them today."

Marco Andretti summed up his day, which was over at lap 1. "Today was a disappointing start to the season for the Venom Energy car. I took the green and had a good run going on the inside of (Ryan) Briscoe and then Helio (Castroneves) misjudged his breaking point and ran up into the back of me. It was all a chain of events from there. I think having the cars start so close together is great for the fans but it was no good for me today."

There was another double file restart incident in turn 1 at lap 14, as Alex Tagliani and Sebastian Saavedra ended up in the grass. Tagliani drove away, but Saavedra spun out.

Some of the the drivers don't seem to like the double file restarts. Ryan Hunter Reay said during the broadcast "These re-starts, they're all great on ovals, when you have like NASCAR, when you're running really slow cars, slow to move, slow to accelerate. You get all these cars that can go from 100 mph down to 30 like that, you're gonna have big problems. It's ridiculous. You run a good race, you're running third or fourth, and you have to put yourself on the outside with a bunch of..." He paused, frustrated, then added "a bunch of bleep bleep."

This is the 27th career Indy car victory for Dario Franchitti. He ties Johnny Rutherford for 10th on the all-time wins list. "Johnny Rutherford is a legend and he is a friend of mine. It is a privilege to get to drive for the teams that I have and be a part of the IZOD IndyCar Series. It is on an upward swing and I need to thank the partners and vendors." Franchitti added, when asked about tying Rutherford's record.

The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The race will be televised live at 3 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.

Photo Credit: Crash : Chris Jones, Dario: LAT Photography

Friday, March 25, 2011

Will Power Fastest In Practice At St. Pete As INDYCAR Prepares For Season Opener

Will Power, practicing Friday. at St. Pete
The IZOD INDYCAR season kicks off this weekend, with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 100-lap race at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Will Power (the man with the best name in auto racing) was fastest in both practice sessions Friday, as teams prepared for Sunday's event.

"I was very surprised to be P1, honestly." Power said Friday. "I think I had a bit left in me to show in the Verizon Team Penske car. It was not a very good session for me, but it's going to be a long weekend. The Verizon car is good, but you can see the competition is getting closer. Now we just have to managed the gap. I think it will be very tough to get in the (Firestone) Fast Six (Saturday). It's going to be unbelievably close."

Defending series champ Dario Franchitti, Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon rounded out the leader board for Friday's practice sessions.

"We were really making a lot of big changes today, a lot of changes. Had we been closer at Barber we would have done them there. The Team Target car is pretty good actually. The driver is a little bit rusty. I'm probably about eight tenths right now. I'm going to go back and work with the guys tonight and see what we can come up with tomorrow." Franchitti said.

IZOD Trophy Girl Cameron Haven and a lucky fan
"I'm fairly happy with that. We were just trying to get through a lot of things, but it was difficult with the yellow flags and so on. But, the car has worked well since we got here. It's just a case of chipping away at it every day to get some more speed out of it. I think we've got some good things to try tomorrow morning. We'll try to do our homework tonight and come out a bit stronger tomorrow." Mike Conway, driver of the #27 Team said after his sessions Friday.

Other Notes:

  • Drivers will have 240 seconds total of the Honda overtake assist at their disposal during the 100-lap Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday. Each press will have a horsepower boost for 12 seconds, with a 10-second recharge period between presses built into the ECU.

  • Firestone Racing has new specifications for both its primary and alternate tires for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. That's coupled with the new IZOD IndyCar Series rule of only one set of tires per segment of road/street course qualifications. The primary Firehawks consist of the same tire construction as the 2010 St. Pete primes, paired with an improved tread compound formula. The alternate tire program, part of the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2009, has a spec with the same construction as the primary but with a softer tread compound that provides more grip and faster lap times, yet trades off compound durability in exchange for those shorter-term advantages. Firestone's alternate tires are easily identified by the red sidewalls. Teams are free to use their tire allotment (six sets of primaries and three sets of alternates per entry) as they see fit, though the new rule limits cars to one set of tires (team choice of primary or alternate) for each of the three segments. Also, per series regulations, all cars must use at least one set of primary tires and one new alternate set during the race, each for a minimum of two green flag laps.

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tony Stewart On Fontana: "It sure races like an old, worn-out track"

Tony Stewart has not experienced a great level of success at Fontana. Smoke went winless in 18 Sprint Cup starts, before finally finding victory lane last October. He has run well early on in '11, coming up just short of victory at Vegas after leading 163 laps. Smoke looks to build on that finish at the similarly laid out Auto Club Speedway.
Smoke has been dominant at times so far in '11

"Fontana is so momentum driven, and when it’s as slick as it was back in October, it puts it back in the driver’s hands, and I think that’s always going to be to my advantage." The two time Cup champion Stewart said. "But, you’re right, I’ve just been terrible there. We’ve had times when we’ve been good, but I’ve really struggled as a driver there over the course of 12 years"

"It’s just a very difficult place to get a hold of, and if you can get your car balanced, you really can drive away from the majority of the field and get a pretty big gap there. But, it’s hard to do. You have to have that balance perfect. Somebody is going to get it right. I mean, somebody gets it perfect every time we go there."

"It’s getting harder and harder to get to where you have an advantage over somebody and can be that much better. But I thought the racing last year was really good. The restarts early in the race were out of control. We were five-wide sometimes, and I know because I was one of them that put a bunch of guys five-wide early in the deal clear on the bottom, and I think we gained four spots in one corner doing it. But guys know how important these restarts are now, and they’re willing to take more chances. And at Fontana, the track is so wide, you can run so many different lines."

"The track is good and it’s racy, but man, it’s difficult. The seams are slick. The racetrack is slick. It’s not an old track, but it sure races like an old, worn-out track."

Crew Chief Darian Grubb was asked what does the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy need to have at California to get another win? He answered "Overall, it’s just pure speed without being too loose off (the corner). We can always seem to get that balance of being able to turn in the center, but we get too loose off, especially off of turn four. If you give up too much off of turn four, you can’t carry that speed down the front straightaway and you’ll get eaten alive. You have to really be able to carry that momentum through the corner and off the corner and be able to carry it down those long straightaways, then let the horsepower and everything else take over. Aerodynamics is a big key there, so hopefully we’ll be able to take all those and put them together and pull off another win."

Stewart turns the big 4-0 on May 20, and he’s just one win shy of victory #40. If Stewart notches that victory between Fontana and the May 15 Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway, Smoke will join active drivers Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as drivers who notched 40 wins before they turned 40. Don't bet against him.

Read FVP's recap of the Auto Club 400 by clicking here.

Check out our INDYCAR race recap by clicking here

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Denny Hamlin And The Dominance At Martinsville

Denny Hamlin has been unbeatable at Martinsville
If Bill Belichick were a racecar driver, he would never be talking about Martinsville with Fontana the next race on the schedule. He'd roll out "We're just trying to get ready for California" when asked about the Virginia short track. Race fans can be thankful that The Hoodie is not in NASCAR. Denny Hamlin spoke today about his team's dominance at the half mile flat oval, even as the #11 Fed Ex team gets ready to head west for the Auto Club 400.

Hamlin knows which teams, if any, can beat his Joe Gibbs Toyota. "Well, we know the 48 can. He's beat us there a few times. I don't know how many years in a row now it's either been us or the 48 that's won at Martinsville. But we hope to keep that trend going." Hamlin said. "I know Kyle has gotten stronger there over the last few years. There's always been one or two guys kind of mixed in there each and every race that gives you a run for it. Kind of tough to say what's left to do there except keep winning.

"Martinsville spring race always seems to be the springboard for our season. Whenever we have struggles for the first five races or so, Martinsville falls that fifth or sixth race of the season for us, and that's when we hit our momentum, as soon as we get there." Hamlin said.

Hamlin added "For us, we're looking to, at that racetrack in particular, be the one that kind of sets our season in motion. Hopefully it's no different this year. Because Martinsville, regardless of how many grandfather clocks you have there, how many wins, it's a track you love to win at, it's got so much history at that track. I can remember how hard I fought to get my first win there. I'm going to just try to keep on winning."

Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson have claimed the last nine races at Martinsville. With competition so close week in and week out, how is it that two drivers have accounted for such success? "I just think that we have got something figured out that really no one else has figured out at this point." Hamlin said. "That's all you can really pinpoint it, because the competition is so close. Each and every week, even qualifying, you know, racing, everyone runs essentially the same speed once they kind of get it all ironed out. How can two guys seem to win? It's no different than Kyle Busch at Bristol, to be honest with you. They can just win with inferior cars sometimes. They can find ways to win when they don't have the best car because of their technique at that one given particular racetrack. So for me, obviously Richmond, Pocono, Martinsville, those are three racetracks for me where I feel I can get the most out of what I don't necessarily have sitting under me.

"I think it's part of racing. There's certain tracks where guys click. We'll see it this weekend with Jimmie at California. You know, every driver will tell you, he just has his favorite two or three racetracks where they seem that drivers can make up for what they don't have."

Hamlin currently sits 17th in points, which is not the usual standing for the #11. With only 4 top 10's in his career at Fontana, Hamlin undoubtedly looks forward to not only Martinsville, but Texas as well, having swept both tracks last season. Hamlin talked about how he can stay focused through some early struggles, knowing that those two tracks are coming up. "I mean, you know, we're in no way, shape or form panicking or anything like that at this point. You know, really it is a little different because, you know, I look at I'm 40 some points back, I think. Essentially I look back and I say, Okay, we're about 140 points back from the points lead right now in the old system. So, you know, I kind of relate that, that's how I kind of gauge where I need to be, what I need to do to perform to get myself in a Chase position." Hamlin stated.

"Really, you know, essentially being one race back, we can make that up, especially with a string of about three top 10s in a row, top 5s, top 3, a win hopefully in the next few weeks, we can make that up relatively easy."

"The good part about it and the reason I don't panic is I know I've got a really strong race team. Obviously we've been contenders over these last five years for a reason: that's because of the core group of guys working on this team, and they continue to give me good racecars every weekend. So I know when I have a bad weekend like I had last weekend, I'm just seven days away from the opportunity to win again." Hamlin stated. "For me, it's pretty encouraging. Until we get to probably six or seven races before the Chase starts, that's when you got to really analyze where you're at in your points position."

Look for the #11 team to be in good shape when the season gets to that point.

Brad Keselowski and the Blue Deuce Team Take A New Chassis To Fontana

Coming off a lead-lap, 18th place finish at Bristol, Brad Keselowski and his team look to have fortunes impove this week at Fontana. The #2 Miller Light Doge Charger out of Penske Racing will be a new chassis, as the team team will use brand new chassis PRS-743 during Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Brad Keselowski
"We ran really well with the Nationwide car at Auto Club Speedway last year." Brad Keselowski said. "That was a huge boost of confidence for me because it has been one of the tougher tracks for me over the years. I’m really looking forward to going back this weekend and having a solid race with the Cup car. The Cup car was a little up and down last year at Fontana, but it was really fast at times. Everyone on the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge is excited about the car we are taking this weekend. There has been a lot of work put into it and I think it will race well"

The driver of the blue deuce added "Although the finish doesn’t really reflect it, I am very proud of the way we fought back at Bristol last weekend. We had an unbelievably fast racecar, but we got caught in an early hole and had to claw our way out of it. After getting caught up in a wreck and then having a flat tire, we were two laps down. No one on this Miller Lite Dodge team threw in the towel and we battled back for an 18th-place, lead-lap finish. Those types of races will build character. It shows that hard work does pay off and it will help us in the long run."

Crew Chief Paul Wolfe spoke about what is needed for success at Fontana. "The key to victory at Auto Club Speedway is having a car with great balance. The track is known for long green flag runs and the car tends to get looser the longer you run. It’s a delicate balance because you have to be loose to start a run. A tight racecar is no good either but the driver has to be able to hold on to it. That is a very fine line. In Brad we have a driver that can handle a loose racecar. In fact, he prefers the car to be loose rather than tight and his margin for error is pretty wide. That gives me confidence that we can put a car underneath him that he can use to run up front."

After four events, Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team sit 21st in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings. Penske Racing earned consecutive Cup Series victories at Auto Club Speedway in 2000 and 2001, the most-recent with former driver Rusty Wallace. Additionally, the organization has captured four poles, eight top-five finishes and 20 top-10 results in 51 combined starts at the oval originally constructed by Roger Penske. The team hopes to improve on the top twenty finish last week, and move up from the 21st in points.

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Monday, March 21, 2011

FVP Monday Night All-Stars: UFL Cheerleaders

The Hartford Colonials of the UFL have announced that former NFL coach Jerry Glanville has agreed to be the teams head coach/GM. The move brings some big name recognition to the Colonials, just as the NFL continues to blow things up with their big egos. Glanville said today "The fun of this league, this isn't a trick or gadget (league) or a marketing ploy. This is good football, and this is why this league is different than anybody else other than the AFL" According to the league's website:
Glanville compared the UFL and those associated with it to the American Football League of the 1960s. In Colonials Owner Bill Mayer, Glanville said he saw the grit of Tennessee Titans Owner Bud Adams and the integrity of Detroit Lions Owner William Clay Ford Sr.
What does that have to do with tonight's All-Star's? Say hello to some of the UFL cheerleaders, shown here at auditions. You can see more of the ladies over on facebook.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kyle Busch Sweeps Bristol, Says Of Carl Edwards; "That was your shot."

Kyle Busch led 153 laps today en route to another weekend sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch was able to hold off Carl Edwards, who finished second, and third place Jimmie Johnson. Rowdy notched his 20th career NASCAR Sprint Cup win, his first of 2011, and moved into sixth in the early season points battle.

As close as Edwards got to Busch
After the 10th and  final caution of the race, Busch and Edwards started side by side at the front of the field. Busch was able to get out in front of Edwards at the drop of the green flag with 37 laps to go. The two battled side by side at lap 27, but Busch was strong enough to pull away from the #99. Edwards would not get close enough to get a shot at Rowdy, who cruised to the win.

"I was trying to drive away from him so he couldn't have the opportunity to get to me." Busch said. "When he got to me that one time, I'm like, Oh, man. That was your shot, so nice try. He didn't get it done. I thought, Man, if I could just get away from him, I wouldn't have to worry."

Edwards was asked post race if he should have given the #18 a shot when he had the chance. "I should have. It was a little early. I told him after Phoenix I still owe him one. But I'll save it up."

Busch played dumb when asked about this. "I have no idea what I'm owed from, so... You'll have to ask Carl. Normally when it's against you, you'll always remember it forever. I don't remember what I did that made him mad. Apparently he still thinks that. Reminiscent of '08? A little bit. I thought when he did that, he got up alongside of me. Fortunately he didn't get by me. So I was still able to kind of control his lane a little bit and not let him overtake me. But it's Bristol racing. It's tough racing. It's things that you do to try to get by another competitor. With the competition as close as it is here, especially two cars that fast at the end of the race running identical lap times, you have to do something to get by the guy. What are you going to do? You have to break his momentum or traction. Carl was doing his part to try to do that. Fortunately it wasn't me trying to do it."

“It’s fun and I love coming to Bristol,” said Busch, who has led 936 of the 1,756 possible laps (53 percent) in his five-race Bristol winning streak. “There’s nothing not fun about this place. I’m sure all these fans know that, too. As soon as I can beat Darrell (Waltrip, 12 Sprint Cup wins at Bristol) for most wins here, they can name it after me. This is his right now. This is pretty cool. It’s an awesome opportunity to come to Bristol and win in front of these fans. I love it. It’s a lot of fun, especially with five in a row."

Hear it right from the horse's mouth as Busch talks about racing Edwards in the video below.

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

View From The Sin Bin: Thoughts On the Slumping Bruins, Max Pacioretty, and A Call To Ban Matt Cooke

Tim Thomas looks to right the ship
It appears our Boston Bruins have disappeared. The way they are playing lately, they will be lucky to even make the playoffs. This after an incredible 7-0 run not long ago. The defense has become as porous as the New Hampshire ground in mud season. Coughing up two-goal leads late has become a habit. It’s gone beyond a simple winning-streak hangover. At the same time the defense abdicated, the goal scorers decided to go on extended vacation. The B’s lost an ugly one to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 5-2 tally. Daniel Paille (really like how he plays) scored with 20 seconds left in the tilt to make it look a little better on paper. My fault. I mentioned Lord Stanley’s hardware in an earlier column and jinxed the B’s. Possibly related: since the Zdeno Chara-Max Pacioretty incident, the Bruins have been the victims of some pretty weak calls from the men in stripes. Can’t say that’s the entire cause of the recent skid, but it appears it has made the black-and-gold somewhat tentative…trying to be too careful. Doesn’t help that sparkplug Brad Marchand will sit for two games after an elbow to the back of the head of Columbus Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger. Although no penalty was called on the play, the NHL sat Marchand for a pair. Can’t say it’s not deserved. Gotta watch those elbows.

On that topic…the good news is that Max Pacioretty appears to be recovering well and there’s talk of him returning in time for the playoffs. Frankly, I hope not. The Habs should shut him down, period. Just look at what happened last season when Marc Savard tried to come back too quickly after the bludgeoning by Matt Cooke. Although he potted the winner in a playoff game against the Flyers, Savvie came back too soon, had to sit again, and may have ended up staying out longer than if he hadn’t tried it. Might be better for Max in the long run to sit.

Matt Cooke…funny how that name keeps coming up. Watched the Rangers at Penguins game on NBC today. Cooke wound up and unloaded an elbow into the face of the Blueshirts’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh was shaken up, but returned later. Watch the replay if you can. I’ll say it…with Cooke’s history (not just with Marc Savard) it’s time for the NHL to put its skate-clad foot down (resisting the urge to add “on Cooke’s throat”) and send him packing. Banished. For. Life. He is a multi-repeat offender who obviously has no regard for the safety of those he plays against. Does the league wait until he literally kills someone?

3/20/11 tjz

Photo Credit: Steve Pouliot Images for

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kurt Busch says "Anytime you win at Bristol, it's special"

NASCAR makes the first stop at one of the short tracks on the schedule this week, as teams head to the Tennessee mountains to take on half mile Bristol Motorspeedway. Bristol is one of NASCAR's marquis tracks, and as five time Bristol winner Kurt Busch says "Anytime you win at Bristol, it's special."

In 2007, BMS was resurfaced, and the high banked corners were changed to a graduated banking. The fans may not love it as much, but the drivers rave about the new configuration. "The track has definitely changed." Kurt Busch said. "I don't think by any means do I have it figured out. Once they've gone to the new style of banking, the progressive banking, new concrete, it's definitely been a more generous Bristol. Each time we go back, it seems like the drivers are more comfortable, ready to mix it up even that much more."
Busch hopes to be back n Victory Lane at Thunder Valley

Busch addressed the new nose on the Sprint Cup cars, and how the changes may affect the racing. "The splitters still have the same ride height which still puts it in a bad position I think to rub the racetrack the wrong way or clip the apron and you have some damage. Even when you spin at these high-bank racetracks, it seems to rip the front end right off. We didn't have that with the old car. It's about the same as it used to be; it's just a little more beefed up I guess you could say."

The driver of the Yellow Double Deuce took NASCAR to task with the redesign of the nose. "The drivers aren't thinking any different about it. It's just the way the splitter is. It's just too low to the ground to start with. When we have the tight shocks on the cars, we really pin that nose to the racetrack. There's quite a bit of side effects that happen when you touch the grass, like my little brother did at Vegas, or when you slide off the banking and grab the apron the wrong way. Harmless spins are damaging these cars in a great way which I think NASCAR needs to take a look at."

Busch was asked about some of the memorable moments at Bristol, and if any stood out to him. Like a true politician, he answered "It's really difficult to pick out one specific memorable moment above the rest. It's always tough to pick the best." Maybe Busch has a future in public service.

Busch did drop the political rhetoric, stating "A moment when I was a kid watching races, when Dale, Sr., was racing Terry Labonte, said he wanted to rattle his cage, flat out wrecked him. It was one of those moments that made Bristol what it is today. The night race, the energy, the excitement, the close action that you have on the half-mile short track, that moment really stood out to me. When I was able to win my first race there, moving Jimmy Spencer out of the way, I didn't wreck him, but I did move him, that's the short track atmosphere, the excitement you see at Bristol. That's what makes it so much fun and intense."

NASCAR's point co-leader is tied with Tony Stewart atop the standings. Bristol has been one of of Kurt Busch's best tracks, with five wins, with an average finish of 13th. Anything can happen at Thunder Valley, but there is a real possibility of the Double Deuce leaving Tennessee as the points leader when the haulers head out post race.

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adrian Peterson Makes Idiotic Comments, Eats Up Goodwill With Fans

In an interview with Doug Farrar of Yahoo's Shutdown Corner, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson compared his situation to slavery. Farrar quotes Peterson as saying:
It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey — without us, there's no football.'

Comments like this from Peterson show how clueless he is. Adrian, there is a big difference from being an employee and being a slave. Clearly, Mr. Peterson has issues with being an employee. With all is money he's made so far, he should go buy in to some franchise somewhere. The UFL must be looking to add teams. He could be the first player / owner. No employee/employer issues there. No one to blame, and no one to complain to about being a slave.

The better idea would be to just shut up about it. Fans don't want to hear you whine how bad you have it. We don't want to here how the owners are going broke, either. You guys have the biggest, most successful pro sports league on the planet. Just make a deal already.

Helio Castroneves Tops Day Two INDYCAR Testing At Barber Motorsport Park

Castroneves lights 'em up after spinning out in Day 2 testing
Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves was fastest on the speed charts as the INDYCAR teams concluded day two of pre-season testing at Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday. Castroneves' best lap came in his 48th of 52 circuits, with a 1:11.943 time around the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course. Will Power, fastest in Day 1, was second-quickest, turning a lap of 1:11.9636 in the #12 Verizon Team Penske car during the first of the day's two practice sessions. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Newman/Haas Racing's Oriol Servia rounded out the top five.

The day was not without incident for Castoneves, who spun the car through a gravel trap. "I was expecting something different from the car because it kept changing throughout the day based on the track." Castroneves said. "I was expecting the car was going to push but it went the opposite way. The good news is that nothing was damaged. The field is so competitive; we have some new teams up at the top giving us a hard time. Also my teammates, they are two great talents - Ryan (Briscoe) and Will (Power) - pushing each other but I'm glad we were able to put the No. 3 up at the top at the end of the day."

Will Power Sets The Pace At INDYCAR Pre-Season Testing

Danica Patrick, at the Barber Motorsport
Park INDYCAR test Monday.
Will Power was the fastest at Barber Motorsport Park Monday, as INDYCAR teams took to the track for the first official pre-season testing. Power, runner-up in the 2010 championship, topped the field with a lap of 1 minute, 12.5056 seconds (114.198 mph) in the #12 Verizon Team Penske car on the 2.38-mile natural-terrain course. Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was second (1:12.5538) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Justin Wilson was third (1:12.6791).

"It was a good day today for Verizon Team Penske." Will Power, The-Man-With-The-Best-Name-In-Auto-Racing, said. "We definitely found some things today that will help us here. The track conditions really improved late in the day before we decided to stop a bit early because of the rain. It felt really good out there and I hope it's dry tomorrow so we can get back out and do some more laps in the Verizon car." (About closeness of the field today): "I said yesterday that this would be the toughest season in history. I haven't seen the timesheets yet, but it's already shaping up to be that way. There are a lot of good drivers in good cars and maybe some good drivers in not-so-good cars. It's great to see a whole field of good drivers. There's not one person that shouldn't be out there."

"Overall I think today's practice sessions were successful." The series' most popular driver Danica Patrick said. "We made a lot of changes to the car, some worked, some didn't, but that's what testing is about. I think we will be able to fine tune some of the things that worked well, and put them to test again tomorrow. The time that we have spent on track is going to be useful when we are back here in a few weeks."

Photo Credit: Dan Helrigel for

Monday, March 14, 2011

FVP Monday Night All-Star: Eduarda

Tonights FVP All-Star comes from the Girls Of Brazil Calender, the beautiful Eduarda. Our friend Jeremiah tells the story on facebook "How many times have you seen a lady like this surrounded by a million guys? Well in Florianopolis, Brazil sometimes the opposite can happen. We saw Eduarda sit with a girlfriend and over the span of many hours not even one guy approached them . This was not due to intimidation or anything but rather the sheer quantity of beautiful women at the P12 party in Jurere, Brazil. Certainly one of the top pool parties in the world. Near the end of the party we asked Eduarda if she wanted to participate with our Girls of Brazil project." We're so glad she did.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is Zdeno Chara a Marked Man?

View from the Sin Bin 1.3

The big news this week in Boston Bruins Nation (and the rest of the NHL) is the hit by Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara on the Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty. Chara finished a check by rubbing out Pachioretty along the boards…but when he did, the Canadien winger’s head hit the glass perpendicular to the boards that separates the two player benches. Pacioretty went down like he’d been shot. Chara was assessed a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct. Pacioretty was packaged and taken off the ice on a stretcher. He was later diagnosed with a severe concussion and a broken neck.

Zdeno Chara, a marked man?
            Did Big Z deliberately drive Pacioretty’s head into the glass? Hard to say, but my take while watching it was no, it was certainly unfortunate but not deliberate. Chara is not that kind of player. If the perpetrator had been, oh, say Matt Cooke or Chris Pronger (both carry repeat offender status in this regard) it would be pretty hard to feign innocence. But that’s not Chara’s game and it never has been. Montreal fans have inundated the Montreal Police with complaints calling for Chara to be charged with a crime. Texting with some friends after the hit, we came to a consensus that Chara was gone for four or possibly six games. Frankly, I was surprised when the league decided against any supplemental discipline. Although there’s a bit of history between the two (Pacioretty crosschecked Chara after Pacioretty scored the winning goal in OT earlier in the season)… the police? Please. Here’s hoping the CT native makes a speedy recovery and plays again.

            The lock-down defense we’ve come to know over the last few months has disappeared. It certainly doesn’t help that since the Montreal game it appears anytime Big Z breathes on someone he gets called for a penalty. Makes me wonder if there’s supplemental discipline of a different kind in play here. The B’s gave up two-goal leads twice this week (against the Islanders and Buffalo). The Black-and-Gold have lost four in a row, although they did get points in two of them. Injured D-men Andrew Ference and Steve Kampfer appear ready to rejoin the team soon. That will help. Hopefully the B’s will get this losing skid out of their system and get back to playing winning hockey. Better to work it out now as the season winds down and playoffs are on the horizon.

3/13/11 tjz

photo credit: Steve Pouliot Images for

Thursday, March 10, 2011

INDYCAR Driver Graham Rahal : "I think there needs to be an American star"

Graham Rahal will be behind the wheel for Chip Ganassi in '11
Graham Rahal, driver of the #38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Honda Indy Car talked today about the upcoming 2011 season. Among the topics that Rahal talked about was the fact that the series needs and American star. He also touched on some of the rule changes, the need to get in a good test next week at Barber Motorsport, and the season ending $5 million dollar challenge. As the first test approaches next week, Rahal's feelings may well be a metaphor for the upcoming season: "There's a lot of anticipating".

IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights teams prepare for the season with an Open Test March 14-16 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. IZOD IndyCar Series teams will be on the 2.38-mile circuit March 14-15. Rahal recognizes the importance of getting off to a good start, and how the test can be a tune up for the season opener at St. Pete. "Well, I think it's important for us to have a good test. But I think it's more important for us to have a good test because that's going to be our only test before the start of the season, and will be our only one. We haven't done any running yet." Rahal said. "Certainly before St. Petersburg we need to make sure all systems are go and the car's running well. Certainly not only do you focus on that, but we're going to be back at Barber only a couple weeks after that."

Graham continued "It's important for us to make sure that we have a really successful test because we need to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts, not only for the Barber race, but St. Pete, which is a week and a half afterwards. There's a lot of stuff on our plate, a lot of stuff we need to get through. We've already looked over the test plan. It's going to be a busy couple of days for us. Actually, the testing time is fairly limited. It's only a few sets of tires a day. We can blow through those pretty quickly. So we need to be a little cautious."

Rahal shared his thoughts on some of the rules changes that are going to be different this year, capping the field at 26, making 24 cars get in on speed, the others on provisionals, as well as the double file restarts. "You know, the 26 cars is good. We're not NASCAR. We don't try to be NASCAR. We're not going to have 43 cars running around St. Petersburg. That's just not going to happen. I think 26 cars is great." Rahal said.

"I'm not one for provisionals. I think you should always earn the right to be in the race. That's fine. Double-wide restarts, I'm glad they're starting at St. Pete and not the Indy 500 because that's not what we needed." He addressed one of the rumored changes as well "I think overall there's this rumor of this lucky dog thing. Mixed emotions about it, but I think it's a great idea. Really it gives you a great opportunity that if something goes wrong you can get your lap back fairly easily, get right back in the race and have a good shot at it. I think that's pretty exciting."

"I think the moves that they're making are the right moves. I'm not the guy making the rules, so I'll certainly step aside. But I think that we're headed in the right direction. Two-wide restarts, most of the places we run anyway, we end up being two-wide the minute we cross the start/finish line. I don't think that's going to make that big of a change. It's only how they handle lap traffic. You don't want a back marker up there taking out the leaders. That won't go over very well."

Overall, Rahal approves of the changes for 2011. "I think it's great. If we can have 26 cars at every event, I think that's showing a huge turn in momentum for our series. I think we're already seeing that. We're seeing a lot of sponsors get involved in the sport in a much bigger way. But I think they're doing the right things and I stand behind them. I always have. Whatever it takes to make the show a little more exciting, I'm perfectly fine with that."

Perhaps the biggest off season change is the announced $5 million dollar season ending challenge. Recapping, INDYCAR announced that if any pro racing driver NOT from the INDYCAR series wins the season finale in Las Vegas, that driver will win $5 million dollars. This challenge will be open to a max of five drivers. Rahal talked about the opportunity to race against some of the big names from other series. "I'd prefer to see NASCAR guys come over because I think often the perception is if you're just the average fan people would probably tell you that NASCAR guys are the greatest drivers in the world." Rahal said. "I think it would be interesting to have them there and compare. It would be a lot easier for them to go to Vegas and compare to us than going to St. Pete because the results wouldn't be very good. I'd like to see five NASCAR guys give it a shot. If not, Formula One, it will never happen just because of the world that we live in now. But you could get some guys that are semi-retired, come out, give it a shot, probably do a great job. It will be interesting to see exactly who steps up. Of the NASCAR guys, you can guarantee that Montoya and anybody that's had any sort of open-wheel experience, Tony Stewart, probably Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson is a great driver, those guys are all going to make the Chase so we're not going to see them, but those types of guys, it would be great to have them there and I think they'd do a great job."

One of the issues facing the IZOD series is the lack of star power. There are some very talented drivers on this circuit, but not what most people would consider household names. The most popular driver, Danica Patrick, is known more for her Madison Avenue portfolio than her on track successes. Rahal talked about the need for an American star in the nation's top open wheel circuit. "I think there needs to be an American star. At the same time, putting Danica aside, I would say the most popular people are not Americans. I can see how people can say, That's because there haven't been that many Americans over the past several years. At the same time you look at the names that are most widely recognized in this sport, and really none of them are American."

"I would say while it is important, we're going to see what happens this year. We've got a great field of American drivers, a really good group of people that can certainly succeed. We'll see how the fans take that, how they react to the fact that there's an American in the National Guard car, me obviously in the Service Central, Hunter-Reay, Danica, Marco. There's a long list of Americans to cheer for now. We'll see how it goes."

The same could be said for the 2011 season, not only for Rahal, but for the entire racing series. It as been a relatively successful off season, but when it comes to 2011, as Graham says, we'll see how it goes.

Photo Credit: Courtesy

Brandon Meriweather Involved In Shooting? Other Sports Odds-n-Ends For March 10

Meriweather is reporting that New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather was involved in a shooting in Apopka, Fla., on Feb. 27. WEEI states that former college football player and current radio talk show host Dan Sileo originally broke the story, which was picked up by According to deadspin Florida Attorney John Morgan is representing the two victims. Deadspin states:

The trouble started at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Apokpa when a friend of Meriweather's allegedly beat up a woman, according to Morgan. The woman's brother arrived later with his own friend, and the conflagration shifted to a nearby party, where the brother soon got the better of Meriweather's friend in a fight. That's when Meriweather allegedly pulled out his gun and fired at the brother, grazing the man's face and hitting the other victim in the head, according to Morgan.

The story has been picked up by the mainstream media, and it remains to be seen if the story has legs, or if this is headed down the road like the alleged Marvin Harrison situation. Attorney John Morgan was on WEEI Thursday morning. He stated he became involved when two victims of a shooting came to him about the situation. Attorney Morgan said he assumes nothing to be true, and an investigation is ongoing. He said the shooting happened outside, in the dark, and the victims have contacted Morgan as representation in a personal injury case. Morgan stated on the radio that the victim's allegation is that there was a fight, Meriweather shot one of the people involved in the fight, that bullet grazed the first clients head, and then hit the second client in the cheek. At this time, Meriweather has not been charged.

Other Odds-n-Ends
  • Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will not be suspended or fined for his hit on Montreal Canadians Max Pacioretty Tuesday night in Montreal. The play, near the end of the second period, happened as Chara hit Pacioretty, driving him into the "turnbuckle", or rink side stanchion, near the benches. The hit left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and non displaced fracture of the fourth cervical vertebra.
  • NFL Executive VP Jeff Pash met the media yesterday, after another day of mediation trying to get a new CBA with the NFLPA. The following is a transcript from
We just finished another full day with the mediator and the Players Association and we’ll be back tomorrow morning to continue these negotiations. I think you know the discussions are getting into the most significant issues and so these are the most serious discussions that we’re going to be having and we’re looking forward to getting back to it for another full day of work and we’ll stay at it and hopefully make some progress on this.
On financial disclosure:
The financial disclosure issue was not discussed further across the table. The union knows what we’ve proposed to do, what we’ve proposed to make available.  We understand their position and so we’re on to other subjects.
On NFLPA claiming it seeks more financial transparency before ‘being forced to write a $5 billion check’:
Well, no one is asking anyone to write any checks, I think we’ve been quite clear on that. I know what his words are; I’m just saying no one’s asking the Players Association or individual players to write any checks. It is a fact that the Players Association in the course of these negotiations has received more and more detailed financial information than it has ever had before. Has it gotten everything it wants? Evidently not. Have we offered to provide more? Absolutely. And is it a subject that we’re prepared to discuss? Absolutely. Where we are right now, it remains a fact that indisputably so that the Players Association has received more and more detailed financial information than in any prior negotiation.
And so we’re prepared to continue discussing all of the issues that we have to discuss. There are serious issues; the differences are significant – no one should be misled on that. But we’re here, we believe in this process. I’ve said that many, many times. We believe in collective bargaining. It is an institution that is under attack all over this country. But it is the best means of preserving industrial peace that human beings have ever found. And we believe in it and we want to engage in it. There may be those who don’t want to engage in it, who prefer litigation, who prefer other gambles – that’s not where we are. We’re here to talk, we’re here to negotiate, not to file lawsuits.
On reports of an agreement regarding the rookie wage scale:
I don’t want to get into specifics on individual issues. [FMCS] Director Cohen has asked us not to do that and I want to respect that. The first rule is nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. So, we’ve got a ways to go.
On there being a realistic chance of a deal being done by Friday:
I don’t know, but we’re going to work at it. But if there is a deal to be done, then we’re here to make that deal.
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