NASCAR In 2011: New Year, But Go Back To The Old Way

For NASCAR the year 2011 will bring opportunities for it to improve itself, whether that be through competition, image or its status in the world of professional sports.
Here’s a suggestion: For NASCAR to indeed become something new and improved it must, in some portion, return to the old.
To be clear, this is meant to say that perhaps the most important thing NASCAR can do for itself as we approach the new year is to become more of what it once was.

I daresay the sanctioning body has already told itself that.
Stock car racing’s roots are firmly entrenched in the legend – no, the fact – that it was born in the rural South and its competitors were rough hewn men who didn’t have much of an education but who had common sense. Many made a living as best they could, often outside the law, and in so doing one thing they learned was how to drive cars fast along small country roads.

They parlayed that into competition. In time the vision of Bill France Sr. gained control of it and propelled it into a sport that eventually provided some men with a new way to make a comfortable living – and in a sport that grew into national prominence.

Today’s NASCAR is nothing like it once was and never will be again. It is a wide-reaching sport that engulfs the entire nation. It is a full-scale marketing phenomenon that has grown into national prominence and is broadcast coast-to-coast via television. It is unlike like the elder France might have ever imagined.

As all of this evolved NASCAR forgot what it used to be. It seemed that to mold itself into a proper, and financially rewarding, entity for an admiring new public it had to mandate rules to fit a more innocent image, one that was far removed from the rough-and-tumble one it once had.

It seemed it wanted its competitors to become more prim and proper with not even a hint of the rednecks they were once perceived to be. NASCAR saw to that by providing stiff penalties for any behavior it warranted as unacceptable.

It got its wish. It dearly paid for it. It knows it.
That’s one reason why, in 2010, it told us that, yes, racing was a contact sport and that, yes, it wanted its drivers to settle their issues among themselves – as they once did – rather than for it to constantly intervene and, in so doing, so cowed drivers they dared not reveal their true personalities.

Rivalries, however infrequent, arose. Some drivers became villains who invoked fans’ disdain. Others were perceived as heroes.
The point is that NASCAR regained a portion of what it once was. In one man’s opinion, that helped, somewhat, to remove something that drove away many of its longtime, hardcore fans, the ones it so very much needs today.

To capture a measure of its past image is by no means the only challenge NASCAR faces in 2011. Hardly.
It will have to deal with the lean economy, as will its teams, speedways and fans. Perhaps all will be better in the coming year, which will be good for us all.

NASCAR must hope that the competition will at least rise to the level it did in 2010, when the Chase produced its most dramatic finish ever. It has to trust that any anticipated changes to the “playoff” will do just that.

Yeah, it might help that Jimmie Johnson does not win a sixth consecutive title. But you can’t blame him by any means, OK? He’s accomplished what he has with his, and his team’s, talent within the system. It’s up to others to beat him. If they cannot, well ….

There will be continued issues with NASCAR’s new car but, it appears, the altered front end might convince some disgruntled fans that what they see on the track more closely approaches what it is their driveway – which, I believe, has always been one of the sanctioning body’s strengths. Yes, it’s not likely, but at the very least it’s a step in the right direction. And it sure won’t hurt if Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, wins once and a while.

Certainly there will be more issues. With each season there always are. But one issue NASCAR cannot ignore is that it must allow the sport to become more of what it once was and that helped bring it to what it is today.

In other words, it must continue to do what it started in 2010, when it said racing was a “contact sport.”
And when it said, “Boys, have it.”

The thought here is that, if stock car racing becomes more like it used to be, eventually it will become more appealing to those who want to see it for the first time – and for those who want to see it as they remember it.
Today NASCAR needs them all.

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Kasey Kahne is Underrated

Kasey Kahne doesn’t deserve to be put on a “Top Ten Most Overrated NASCAR Drivers’ list. A driver can have all the talent in the world, if the teams don’t perform, the driver shouldn’t take the fall. Michele Rahal of The Motorsports Channel and http://www.themotorsportschannel.com challenges them.
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NASCAR and F1 Are Rowing In The Same Boat

NASCAR and Formula One have seen an erosion in their product. Is it really that people are bored with racing or is something deeper. Michele Rahal of The Motorsports Channel and http://www.themotorsportschannel.com gives his opinion on global racing..

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Ho-Ho-Ho! NASCAR Part Of Santa’s Final Preparations

It’s Christmas Eve at the North Pole and Santa Claus is preparing to depart on his annual trek around the globe.

He hasn’t had a good year. Because of the economy he had to lay off 10 elves – who didn’t take it very well. One of them, Leopold, drank all the eggnog and while staggering, wrote “Santa Stinks” in yellow on the white snow.

Santa is not happy with the Sleigh of Tomorrow because, even after several testing sessions, it just isn’t handling right – at least for him. Much of his toy inventory isn’t what it used to be. Santa tried outsourcing during the past year and has learned it might be cheaper in Mumbai but it ain’t better.

On top of everything else Mrs. Claus has put Santa on a diet. He hasn’t had a brownie in months.
“If Valerie Bertinelli can do it, you can too,” said Mrs. Claus.
Santa has vowed to put a lump of coal in Bertinelli’s stocking this year.
It’s quickly approaching midnight but before Santa can launch he has to tend to some last-minute items. He presses the intercom on his desk and says, “Barney, can you come in here.”

In walks Barney, an elf. He was recruited from South America and, truth be known, he looks like a midget Mike Helton.
“Yeah, boss?” asks Barney as he puts down his cup of spiced, and spiked, cider.
“Are the reindeer ready?” asks Santa.
“Pretty much,” replies Barney. “Donner watched ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ for the 100th time and overslept, Blitzen has finally gotten over the flu and Rudolph’s nose is a bit redder than normal.”

“Why is that?”
“He’s been hitting the sauce lately but he’s good to go.”
“What’s the weather report?” asks Santa.
“Not bad,” answers Barney. “Asia is gonna be a bit rough, but it’s smooth sailing over Europe and the Atlantic. You are really going to have to be careful over California. Storms there have been so severe the whole state is a mudslide.”

“Seems it’s always something in California,” says Santa. “Anyway, how’s the sleigh?”
“The GPS system is up and running,” says Barney, “and your AC/DC collection is loaded in the CD player. CB radio and cell phone are on board, the parachute is packed and the flares are located in the rear. There will be bags on the reindeer butts. You won’t have an incident like you had over D.C. last year.

“But for the life of me I can’t figure out why you took off the spoiler and put on a rear wing.”
“Dumbest thing I ever did,” says Santa. “Back to the spoiler after this run.
“OK, last item, and I’m pretty sure what it is. We still have to get gifts for a few NASCAR drivers, right? Hard to do. They have pretty much everything.”

“You’re right,” says Barney. “It’s not like it was a few years ago when we just got ‘em racing video games. We got just a few names on the list. Here’s one: Jimmie Johnson.”

“Holy candy cane, what in the world can we give that guy?” asks Santa.
“Whatever it is make sure it doesn’t come from Mumbai,” says Barney.
“I got it!” says Santa. “We’ll send him a six-pack! Huh? Huh? Six …. Six … Get it?”
“Yeah, I get it,” says Barney. “But do you think sending Jimmie Johnson a six-pack of beer really fits his image?”
“Beer?” says Santa. “No, send him a six-pack of Yoo Hoo. He drinks that I’m sure he won’t go surfing on a golf cart. Who’s next?”
“Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” says Barney.
He and Santa look at each other, smiling. Then they say in unison:
“Let’s get him a victory!”
After they stop laughing, Santa says:
“Well, contrary to what some people think we can’t force NASCAR to guarantee that, even though folks might think I’ve got Brian France in the crosshairs.

“But you know what? That pop psychologist Dr. Phil owes me a favor. Let’s get Junior booked on his TV show. Might do him some good. And let’s be sure to give Steve Letarte a case of Pepto-Bismol. Who’s next?”

“Uh, let’s see,” says Barney. “It’s Kyle Busch.”
“Oh, this is easy. What was the name of that book we sent Tony Stewart a while back?” asks Santa.
“I think it was called ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People,’ ” says Barney.
“It sure seemed to work for him so let’s give it to Kyle,” says Santa.
“Kindle version?” asks Barney.
“Sure,” says Santa. “If it’s electronic there’s a better chance he’ll read it. Anyone else?”
“Just one more, thankfully. Mark Martin,” says Barney.
“Well,” says Santa. “We sure can’t give him a rocking chair. We’ve given him five already.”
“Viagra?” asks Barney.
“Don’t get cute,” says Santa. “Get a coupla packages of that shampoo hair coloring stuff and leave it at that.”
“Done. OK, Santa, five minutes to go,” says Barney. “You ready?”
Santa stands up, brushes off his red suit, places his hat atop his head, strokes his beard and says:
“Yeah, Barney, ready to go. Just be sure that everyone, especially NASCAR fans everywhere, hears that I wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

“Consider it done boss,” says Barney. “Anything else?”
“Yeah,” says Santa. “Get me a brownie. Forget that ol’ battleaxe.”

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Mary Kay’s New Incentive: The 556HP Cadillac CTS-V


Cadillac has been around since 1902. It was born by innovation and the CTS-V takes it back to it’s roots and in a damned hurry. Cadillac claims it’s the fastest sedan in the world. Even with 556 HP it’s hard to believe. Michele Rahal of The Drive Channel and www.thedrivechannel.com breaks it down.

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Rich In Hertiage, The Woods Press On

Wood Brothers Racing will continue its long NASCAR odyssey in 2011 when it begins its 58th year of competition.

Over so many years it remains what it has always been – a family operation. Oh, it’s changed over the years but it remains true to itself. There have been no partners, no private investors or investment firms.

As it has for the past few seasons, in an effort to get the most out of performance and sponsorship, it will race on a limited schedule out of its shops in Harrisburg, N.C., with veteran driver and 1988 champion Bill Elliott wheeling its Fords.

The Wood Brothers team is one of the last vestiges of the way NASCAR used to be. In the distant past, most teams were family-owned. Racing was the only business. Income was almost entirely acquired through competition and not, say, selling cars.

When Glen and Leonard Wood began competing in 1953 with two races in which Glen drove, it’s unlikely they had any idea their fledgling team would remain intact for nearly six decades.

Through the years it has gained more than its share of glory.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Woods had one of the most successful stock car racing teams in history.
With drivers such as Marvin Panch, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, A.J. Foyt and David Pearson, the Woods became synonymous with victory and innovation.

The team never bothered to compete for a championship. Instead it ran only the superspeedways – which paid the biggest purses – with a few exceptions.

It was acknowledged as the best on the big tracks. For example, Pearson won 11 of 18 races in 1973, seven of 19 in 1974 and 10 of 22 in 1976.
Even with the onslaught of multicar organizations that eventually became the new NASCAR powerhouses, the Woods chose to field a single car out of their shops in the hamlet of Stuart, Va.

The Woods ran the full schedule for the first time in 1985. From that year through 2007, the last season in which they competed in all the races, they earned only five victories and didn’t get a whiff at the championship.

The Woods, now under the guidance of Glen’s sons Eddie and Len, made changes – perhaps not so much to excel rather to survive.
The team relocated to Harrisburg and has a technical relationship with the Roush Yates engine enterprise. As said, it will continue to compete on a limited schedule comprised mainly of superspeedways.

Eddie Wood has explained that competing on a limited schedule has it advantages. The team has the ability to make the most of the revenue it has. It has more time to test and prepare for races, which gives it a better opportunity to put the best possible product on the track.

It’s been said that the team remains only a shadow of what it had once been.
That may be, for now, but here’s another way to look at Wood Brothers Racing.
It remains a family-owned, one-car entity. It has never been part of a merger that put others in positions of authority, a sale to another party, an auction or bankruptcy.

It is a pillar of NASCAR’s past; of what it meant to be successful in an era where it was simply team against team and not multicar corporation against multicar corporation.

Today there’s not another organization in NASCAR that can match all of that.
The Woods stand alone.

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Piquet Hits The NASCAR Lottery

Former Formula One driver,Nelson Piquet, Jr., signs on with Kevin Harvick Incorporated to run a full season in the NASCAR truck series. Will the driver fit into NASCAR? Will Crashgate effect his performance? Michele Rahal of The Motorsports Channel and www.themotorsportschannel.com breaks it down.
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Driver Test Raves Are A Boon For Daytona

The folks at Daytona International Speedway have to be deliriously happy. NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have done a marvelous public relations job for them and, in turn, that might just sell a few more tickets for the Daytona 500.

Drivers who took on the new asphalt at the 2.5-mile track last week, in what was officially a Goodyear tire test, gave it their rousing approval. They experienced few, if any, problems as the surface provided excellent grip and allowed them to race in packs of three and sometimes four cars in the draft.
They say the prospects for good racing are excellent.

They compared the resurfaced track to the other restrictor-plate tri-oval on the schedule, Talladega Superspeedway, which provides close racing in tight packs and, almost inevitably, big wrecks.

The drivers contend that competing in the Daytona 500 will be similar to any race at Talladega. Everyone is going to run very close together, as they did in testing, and that means just one small mistake could trigger “the big one.”

Kurt Busch, the veteran driver for Penske Racing, said it most succinctly: “Big packs, big action.”
Those are words Daytona officials love to hear. When the drivers themselves sing the praises of a track – and say the competition is going to be, perhaps, greater than ever – that converts into marketing and public relations gold.

I daresay many fans and members of the media are more anxious to see what transpires at Daytona in February 2011 than they have been in years.
Now, not everyone likes Talladega-style racing – and that includes some drivers. The potential for mayhem is greater at the 2.66-mile track than any other.

Some competitors contend that restrictor-plate racing at Talladega is maddening. It’s simply a matter of survival; just stay out of trouble until the end and hope you can find a needed drafting partner that will help you get as far to the front as possible – which doesn’t always happen.
When racing in tight packs lap after lap all it takes is for someone to slip up. The result is smashed sheet metal or worse.
Even so, in one man’s opinion, fans still greatly anticipate races at Talladega. And, given all they’ve read or heard by now, I suspect their interest in the Daytona 500 has significantly increased.

A couple of points here. DIS is still unto itself – which it should be. The repaving, which started last July after the track came apart in places during last year’s 500, did nothing to alter the banking from top to bottom, for which drivers were thankful. Bumps are gone as well as the infamous pothole.
Pit road has been widened, which is a contribution to safety, among other things.

By all reports, Goodyear did a masterful job in preparation for the tests. Among other things, it applied research conducted at Talladega, which was repaved in 2006, and that helped create a tire compound that displayed little wear – something the drivers considered another positive.
In short, this is all very good news for Daytona.

Routinely when a track is repaved tire grip is dramatically improved and speeds increase. Both are so for Daytona and, given higher speeds, NASCAR has said it might reduce the carburetor plate size for the 500.

But sometimes repaving or any other treatment to a track surface does more harm than good – as it did with that “levigating” thing (I think that’s what it was called) at Charlotte a couple of years back when tires were shredded in short order during the race.

While Daytona doesn’t have to do much to promote the potential excitement the track’s repaving may provide – the drivers have done that – over the years speedways routinely touted surface alterations to promote their races.

Years ago, to avoid the high cost of repaving, some speedways would apply a special sealant to fill cracks and holes in the asphalt.
This substance, disdainfully called “bear grease” by competitors, usually made the surface much slicker and the speedways capitalized on that. They would have a driver or two conduct a “test” – usually for a fee – who would then say in press releases that the track was so skittery drivers were sure to crash everywhere.

The tracks hoped that “news” would help sell more tickets.
It didn’t always succeed. In fact, the practice became so common the media ignored it.
They, and the fans, can’t ignore what the drivers have learned and enthusiastically reported from tire testing at Daytona.
Of course, what happens in the 500 and its supporting events remains to be seen.
But the first returns have been good and Daytona International Speedway has to be delighted about that.

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The Corvette ZR1: A Screaming Bargain

The Corvette ZR1 is Chevrolets ultimate evolution of Harley Earl’s original 1950’s design. This Carbon Fiber street fighter takes on the world’s biggest names like Ferrari and Porsche. Michele Rahal of The Drive Channel and www.thedrivechannel.com takes you on a tour.
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For Childress, It’s Been Journeyman Driver To Top Team Owner

In 2010 Richard Childress had a pretty darn good year.

The owner of Richard Childress Racing saw all three of his drivers make the Chase for the Sprint Cup after failing to do so last year. One of them, Kevin Harvick, was in contention for the championship through the last race of the season.

In 2011 Childress will be searching for the seventh title of his NASCAR Sprint Cup team ownership career. His previous six came with Dale Earnhardt as his driver.

It was Childress’ most improbable first association with Earnhardt that led him to success and wealth. Before that he was a second-tier driver/owner who likely would have had to leave the sport because of a lack of money.

An empty wallet was nothing new for Childress as he grew up. A high school dropout, he did all manner of odd jobs, some a bit unsavory, but others perfectly legitimate – like selling peanuts at the races at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Childress caught the racing bug and began competing in NASCAR in 1971, when he entered 12 of 48 races. He drove in 15 of 31 in 1972.
In ’72 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. became the sponsor of the new NASCAR Winston Cup Series. A point fund was established, which offered drivers a chance to see profits, provided they competed on the full schedule.

Several drivers who operated their own teams did so with the goal of finishing as high as possible in the final point standings. To do so could be the difference between profit and loss.

Childress was one of them. For 12 years he raced as what as then known as an “independent,” one who had neither factory backing nor significant sponsorship.

He was arguably the best in his class. He finished 11th or better in points six times and earned $95,000 or more – big money in those days – five times.
Childress was also very popular in the garage area and with the media. He was outgoing and well knew how to have a good time – at or away from the track. The practical jokes he shared with fellow independent driver James Hylton are the stuff of NASCAR lore.

As the years passed, independent drivers began to disappear, victims of dwindling income and increased expenses.
Childress, however, persevered. He invested as much money as he could in his operation and in land.
But he also knew that, without some unforeseen opportunity, he would likely remain no more than a journeyman driver/owner – if that.
In 1981 a series of events led to the ultimate transition of Childress’ career.
For the previous two seasons Earnhardt had driven for California businessman Rod Osterlund. Earnhardt won rookie of the year in 1979 and became the Winston Cup champion in 1980. He was an established NASCAR star.

But in ’81, Osterlund sold his operation to J.D. Stacy, a man who threw money around. At one time Stacy sponsored seven cars.
Earnhardt wanted no part of Stacy, whom he distrusted. He worked behind the scenes with his sponsor Wrangler to find the right deal that would allow him, and Wrangler, to leave Stacy.

Childress was approached and asked if he would be willing to give up his driving career to field cars for Earnhardt. Childress would, of course, be afforded a sizable Wrangler sponsorship.

Childress considered the offer and decided to accept it. For the last 11 races of 1981 Earnhardt drove a Childress-owned Chevrolet.
But he couldn’t remain. As Childress himself has said many times, despite a raise in sponsorship, he couldn’t supply Earnhardt the means to win consistently.

Earnhardt and Wrangler moved on to Bud Moore’s team.
Childress was at a crossroads. He could attempt to find some financial backing and continue his driving career, or he could be solely a team owner – which meant he had to locate sponsorship along with an acceptable driver.

He found both in Piedmont Airlines, the precursor to USAirways, and Ricky Rudd.
From 1982-83 Childress’ organization solidified and gained notoriety, and respect, as Rudd won two races. They were the first wins of Childress’ NASCAR career.

When Earnhardt left Childress, the two agreed that if ever the time came when circumstances were right, they would reunite.
They did so in 1984. And you know the rest of the story.

I remember swapping gossip, jokes and even a few drinks with Childress during his humbler days as a driver, which, by the way, never appeared to bother him. Many times he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

But if he had told me that he would some day become a team owner with six championships, and then field a trio of cars for some of NASCAR’s top drivers, I would have told him he was dreaming.

If he had told me that in the future he would be a very wealthy man who hunted big game all across the world, owned a winery and a ranch in Montana and had other significant investments, I would have told him not to have another drink.

Childress is all of that. And in 2011 he might just add a seventh championship to his already impressive list of achievements.

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