Career Year for Keselowski – Fantasy Insight Texas 2

Brad Keselowski

Each week we hear the NASCAR experts quoting statistics in the upcoming race and tell you how this race might be a problem for Brad Keselowski because of his past performances.

But every once in a while we see a driver mature at the Cup division and you can discount his past statistics. When a driver bucks the trend as consistently as “Bad Brad” has done this season you know he is having a career year. Let’s take a look at Keselowski’s career average at each of the Chase tracks this year and his performance in the Chase at each of those tracks.

Track

Career Average

2012 Finish

Chicago

18.3

1

New Hampshire

15.3

6

Dover

16.9

1

Talladega

13.9

7

Charlotte

15.7

11

Kansas

10.2

8

Martinsville

13.4

6

Texas

25.2

Even at his worst Chase finish of the season he outperformed his career average by almost five positions! It can be quoted as a statistically significant trend when someone has been better seven races in a row this season when compared to their career statistics.

Keselowski’s record at Texas Motor Speedway is awful but as they tell you on the Schwab advertisements, “Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results.” While they are covering their butts with such a statement, you can use that advice to have success on your fantasy racing team by including the “Blue Deuce” in your selections.

Greg Biffle

Good luck with your fantasy racing picks this week and don’t forget to send in your pick for “Whiteboard Fantasy Racing” this week for Texas.

Send in your pick to win this week’s Cup race to dennis@racetalkradio.com for a chance to win a copy of the National Speedway Directory from SpeedwaysOnline.com.

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Winner Last Week

Lori was the winner this week

Whiteboard Fantasy Standings After Martinsville

Rank

Player

Total

1

LAM

60

2

Grainger

57

3

RA

53

4

DMIC

50

5

Mike N

49

6

Gertie

47

7T

Carbon

45

7T

Rick

45

9

Erik G

38

10

Chris U

34 

Weather Report

Expect a great day for racing with partly sunny skies and a high temp near 70F

If you have a question about Fantasy Racing send it to dennis@racetalkradio.com and get it answered next week. 

NASCAR by the Numbers

Using a proprietary race analysis technique we take the fans inside the numbers every week. DMIC’s rating system has been in use since 2002 and has proven to pick the contenders from the pretenders!

Jeff Gordon

 

Consistency is King (Last Five Races)

Driver

Last 5

B Keselowski

93

J Johnson

93

J Gordon

92

K Kahne

92

C Bowyer

91

Ky Busch

91

M Martin

90

M Truex

89

M Kenseth

88

G Biffle

87

Horses for Courses (Track Rating)

Driver

Course

G Biffle

95

M Kenseth

94

J Johnson

93

K Kahne

90

D Hamlin

90

K Harvick

89

D Earnhardt Jr

88

M Martin

88

C Bowyer

87

M Ambrose

87 

Type Casting (Track Type Factor)

Driver

Type

G Biffle

95

D Hamlin

93

J Gordon

91

D Earnhardt Jr

91

J Johnson

90

Ky Busch

90

K Harvick

90

M Truex

90

K Kahne

88

C Edwards

88

Power Rating (240 Minimum to Qualify as Contender)

Driver

Power

G Biffle

277

J Johnson

277

K Kahne

270

M Kenseth

270

D Hamlin

269

C Bowyer

265

J Gordon

265

D Earnhardt Jr

265

M Martin

264

Ky Busch

263

K Harvick

263

M Truex

263

C Edwards

259

B Keselowski

254

P Menard

251

T Stewart

250

R Newman

248

J Logano

245

AJ Allmendinger

243

M Ambrose

243

J McMurray

240

Ku Busch

240

A Almirola

240

S Hornish

238

JP Montoya

237

D Ragan

236

J Burton

235

B Labonte

227

L Cassill

223

T Kvapil

221

C Mears

221

D Gilliland

218

D Blaney

211

DMIC’s Fantasy Picks- Lubricated by TheOilMedics.com

Each week we will take you beyond the numbers to handicap the field from top to bottom to help your Fantasy Racing team succeed. You are also invited to join Lori Munro and I on “White Board Fantasy Racing” every Monday night on “Doin’ Donuts” at 8pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com. Win fun prizes by picking just the race winners in our unique format. Send your picks to info@racetalkradio.com to enter.

Top Pick (Last Week Winner)

Matt Kenseth- Another emotional win for the second best driver in the history of Roush Racing

(9 to 1 Odds) 

Best Long Shot (Odds of 20-1 or More) (Last Week 16th)  

Mark Martin- The Kid should be a force on Sunday

(20 to 1 Odds)             

Top Dogs (Group A in Yahoo) (Last Week 6th)                  

Jimmie Johnson- You would go broke betting against Five Time

(6 to 1 Odds) 

Second Class (Group B in Yahoo) (Last Week 5th)                   

Greg Biffle- This has been a great track for Roush and the Biff won earlier this year

(8 to 1 Odds)

Middle Packer (Group C in Yahoo) (Last Week 8th)                   

Sam Hornish Jr- One of his last best chances at a surprise win

 

Crazy 8s for Texas 2

Each week Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen battle in the most unique racing game around! We pick one driver each from each 8 driver group using the current points’ standings. Our picks can help you round out your fantasy racing lineup!

Last Race at Martinsville: Dennis won the matchup 5-0

Season Record: Lori leads Dennis at 19-14

Group 1: Dennis picks Jimmie Johnson and Lori picks Matt Kenseth

Group 2: Lori picks Dale Earnhardt Jr and Dennis picks Greg Biffle

Group 3: Dennis picks Joey Logano and Lori picks Kurt Busch

Group 4: Lori picks Mark Martin and Dennis picks AJ Allmendinger

Group 5: Dennis picks Sam Hornish Jr and Lori picks Trevor Bayne

Do you have what it takes to handicap the races? Join Lori and Dennis every week and play in the Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Series! Send your pick for the Cup race to info@racetalkradio.com

Johnson’s Martinsville Win Helps Shuffle Contenders For Championship

Jimmie Johnson won his seventh career race at Martinsville and in so doing, moved into the points lead. With three races remaining in the Chase, he’s just two ahead of Brad Keselowski.

After the race a week ago at Kansas many observers declared the winner of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship would be one of three drivers.

Following the TUMS 500 at Martinsville nothing has changed.

Let’s amend that. Something has changed. While it is true that three drivers still have an edge in the title battle, they aren’t the same three from a week ago. We have a new cast of characters – and they are part of a shuffle in the point standings.

With his seventh career win at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson moved into first place in the point standings and has increased his chances for a sixth championship.

Brad Keselowski was atop the standings going into Martinsville and dropped to second behind Johnson. But, by virtue of his heroic performance in the race, he is a mere two points behind with just three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Keselowski may be the driver who brings Penske Racing its first NASCAR title in 20 years of continuous competition.

Clint Bowyer, whom some disregarded as a contender a week ago, is now No. 3 in points and provides Michael Waltrip Racing with a chance to win a first-ever championship.

Bowyer is 26 points out of first place and, admittedly, with only a trio of events remaining before the end of the season, he faces long – but not insurmountable – odds.

Denny Hamlin suffered at Martinsville. He was nabbed twice for speeding on pit road, overcame both and then dramatically fell out of contention by repeated electrical problems in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He finished 33rd, 34 laps down.

Hamlin, who was third in the standings coming into the race, fell to fifth and is 49 back. For him, well, as he old saying goes, “Wait until next year.”

Johnson, who was the race’s dominant driver with 193 laps led, took the lead for good on lap 485 of 500 when he passed Keselowski.

He maintained it after the race’s 11th caution flag, which few with eight laps remaining. After the restart he held off Kyle Busch over the final five laps.

“It was definitely a strong performance for the team,” said Johnson, who earned the 207th victory for Hendrick Motorsports, its 19th at Martinsville and the 10thconsecutive Manufacturers Championship for Chevrolet. “The start of the race went well for us.

Denny Hamlin, who was third in points coming into Martinsville, was removed from championship contention when his car developed electrical problems. He finished 33rd.

“The middle portion when the sun was out, when we seemed to lose our advantage a little bit, we had more like a top‑five car instead of a race‑leading or winning car.

“We kept working on it. Our pit stops were awesome.  Got me track position each time, which was really, really important.

“From there the weather conditions were changing, as all of you know. Overcast, clouds came in, cooler temperatures. The balance on the race track changed a lot for me and it came my way.”

While it came as little surprise that Johnson won, that Keselowski finished sixth was an eye-opener.

The Penske driver qualified 32nd and admitted his opportunity for a good finish was seriously jeopardized. But he continuously moved forward to earn his second top-10 of the year at Martinsville.

And, more important, he maintained his role as a serious title challenger.

“This team has a tremendous amount of heart and I’m just proud of them.” Keselowski said. “This championship is going to come down to Homestead.

“You just have to be in position where you’ve got a shot at it and we’re doing the things it’s going to take to be in contention at Homestead.

“This race doesn’t feel like a win. It just feels like you live another day. It’s like being in a war and surviving a battle.  It’s not necessarily a win, you’re just happy to still be living.”

Bowyer, the third man in the title hunt, led 154 and dominated much of the second half of the race. However, he lost the lead to Johnson following a caution period that began on lap 393 and could never make up the ground.

“Man, I thought we had a car capable of winning,” said Bowyer, who finished fifth. “As soon as it got cool I got a little bit tight, but we lost track position when they beat us out of the pits there and I never could regain it.

“That Keselowski – it’s unbelievable, they just keep doing what they’re doing and we can’t seem to run them down any.

“But it was a good day for us.  It was a lot of fun out there. We led laps and did what we wanted to do.  Just came up short from winning the race.”

Hamlin came into the race third in points, 20 out of first. But the penalties he sustained at Martinsville didn’t help his cause. And the ultimate demise of his car put him out of the title picture.

“Just to have to go through a day like that and it end like this is tough, especially on our best race track,” said Hamlin, who had won three of the last five races at Martinsville. “Going through the adversity of speeding twice and still driving back to the front – it’s frustrating.

“We broke a bolt on a master switch and it ended our Chase chances. What can you do? We’ll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. It’s definitely disappointing as far as that’s concerned.”

While three drivers have a chance at the title – Kasey Kahne fans will suggest it’s four after their man finished third at Martinsville and is fourth in points, 29 back – most observers will say it’s down to Johnson and Keselowski.

But, as Johnson pointed out, anything can happen.

“We’re ready to race under any conditions,” he said. “Brad is a great driver. He is with a great team. The next two races will tell the tale.

“Anything can happen. We could both wad it up next week and Clint Bowyer is your champion. You never know.”

Wood Brothers, Martinsville: Rich In History And Tradition

For more than 60 years, Glen Wood has been the leader of the Wood Brothers Racing team, one of the most successful in NASCAR history.

Martinsville it is on deck for Chase race No. 7. It is a track rich in history.

Today, fans think of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin as drivers who have “owned the track”.

But for NASCAR historians and “old-timers,” Martinsville is synonymous with one team – the Wood Brothers and their No. 21 Ford.

Wood Brothers’ Racing began in 1950 when brothers Glen and Leonard Wood created it in their native Virginia, an area near Stuart.

Inspired by Curtis Turner from nearby Floyd, who had a reputation for winning or crashing, the Woods – there were five – each served as a mechanic for the team. The team began accruing wins at places like Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem and Martinsville.

From 1953-1964 Glen Wood piloted the Wood Brothers Ford to four victories.  Wood didn’t start winning races in NASCAR until 1960 where he took checkered flags in Winston-Salem three times.

Wood’s fourth win came in 1963 at the same venue.

But he was not the only driver in the Wood Brothers’ car. Competitors like Jimmy Massey, Curtis Turner, Johnny Beauchamp, Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Speedy Thompson, Banjo Matthews, Fred Lorenzen, Marvin Panch, Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Bobby Rahal and Kyle Petty were among the illustrious who drove for NASCAR’s oldest continuously operating team.

The Wood Brothers’ team was and is ever-present at Martinsville.

This week I spoke to Glen Wood from his Stuart home.

“We won fewer races than we lost,” Wood reminisces. “We won a lot at Daytona, us and Richard Petty. Petty had more wins at the 500 and we had more at the 400.”

But the NASCAR Hall of Famer recalls, “Martinsville has been a dear place for years. It is close to home. People like to see hometown racers and root for them.”

The Wood Brothers were raised on a farm and “had very little besides bare necessities. I guess you don’t miss what you don’t have,” according to Glen.

Wood added, “Daddy was a mechanic. I figure that’s where Leonard got his mechanical ingenuity.”

Having sons myself, the concept of brothers working together in harmony fascinated me. Wood said that it was just what they knew.

But beyond his relationship with his own brothers Wood stated, “In all my years, including my own brothers, I have never seen brothers get along better than my own sons Len and Eddie.”

Len and Eddie Wood currently run the Wood Brothers Racing Team.

Curious as to how much Glen was involved with the day-to-day operations of the Wood Brothers Racing team he answered, “I’m not there. The shop is located in Harrisburg, N.C. and I still live in Stuart. I don’t get involved with the daily operation. I suppose I’d tell them if I didn’t like something, but they are doing a fine job running things.”

Trevor Bayne currently drives for the Wood Brothers and he surprised the racing world with his victory in the Daytona 500 in 2011.

The No. 21 on the Wood Brothers’ car is as iconic as the No. 43 is to Richard Petty. Wood explained that the No. 50 was the first number they used as the year was 1950 and they’d spent $50 on their first car, a Ford.

Unfortunately, that car had a terrible demise in a fire and the number unlucky to them.

Searching for a new number the brothers had heard of a No. 16 car that had done quite well. They wanted the good luck so adopted that number. Then they fielded a second car.

Wood said, “We had wanted to field a second car and had heard of a No. 21 car doing real well down in South Carolina so we put that number on our car. Later we dropped the No. 16 and got the No. 21 and added the No. 22 to run for Modifieds.”

Wood continued, “Back then I was running a convertible with the No. 22 and Fireball Roberts a hard top. Wouldn’t you know it he was running the No. 22 so I was forced to switch to the No. 21. Pretty much from then on we ran the No. 21.”

The Wood Brothers have been involved in racing for nearly 63 years and in that time they have worked with some phenomenal drivers. Currently young Trevor Bayne helms the car.

“Trevor Bayne,” Wood says, “is as nice as he can be. Religious boy. He doesn’t go storming around the car running his mouth.

“When we got him and entered him in the Daytona 500 (in 2011) I never dreamed of him winning. He had never been in a Cup car and had never driven the track. Then, after his first practice, I felt there was a chance of doing this.”

Of course, Bayne won the Daytona 500 that year.

Bayne is just the current name in a long line of drivers whom Wood recalled. Wood never hesitated when he stated the best driver who ran for the team was David Pearson.

“Just because of the numbers, David was the best,” Wood stated matter-of-factly.

Reminiscing over six decades of competing in NASCAR Wood said, “It’s rewarding to know we’ve been here 63 years coming up. We won a lot of races and lost more than that.

“The proud moment for us is the fact that we have had a relationship with only one manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, for the whole time we’ve been in racing. They are a family-owned business and the Wood Brothers is a family-owned business. I like that we’ve had that relationship for our whole career.”

Currently, as it is for all teams, Wood said, “It’s hard to get somebody to step up and pay. The economy is bad even though they tell us it is getting better. There’s an election coming up so we’ll have to see what’s going to happen.”

The Wood Brothers’ plan is to run in 2013 a similar schedule it ran this year. That includes four or five Camping World Truck races and several Cup races.

With Bayne in the cockpit winning the 2011 Daytona 500, the Wood Brothers can claim they have won at least one race every year over the last six decades, something no other team in NASCAR can match.

Bayne will not be on the entry list for the Cup race at Martinsville this week, but Leonard Wood will be there along with five other NASCAR Hall of Fame members – Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, and Dale Inman – to help celebrate the track’s 65th anniversary.

Martinsville just wouldn’t be the same without the Wood Brothers.

Hearing the tales come out of 87-year-old Wood’s mouth was a ticket back in time to the heyday of NASCAR.

Their dedication, perseverance, ingenuity, and prowess makes the Wood Brothers legends in this sport – Glen and his brother Leonard are both in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The No. 21 Ford still shines brightly on the track. Its history is still being written.

Earnhardt Jr.’s Career Over? Can’t Always Believe What You Read In Supermarket

After an absence of two weeks, Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to the track at Martinsville. He talked about his injuries and then posted the No. 2 speed in practice.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – When Dale Earnhardt Jr. came into the packed media center at Martinsville, we all expected him to comment on his injury-forced absence from NASCAR.

Just a few days earlier it was announced that Earnhardt Jr. would resume competition after a couple of concussions forced him to sit out races at Charlotte and Kansas.

Doctors said Earnhardt Jr. had completed every therapy required, no longer had headaches and therefore was fit to drive.

The physicians’ report was suitable for NASCAR and it willingly allowed its most popular Sprint Cup driver to resume racing.

So everyone figured the Hendrick Motorsports driver was going to reveal the thoughts and feelings he had experienced during his two-week sabbatical.

But I knew better.

Earnhardt Jr. was going to make a shocking announcement, one that would shake the very core of stock car racing.

He was going to tell us his injuries were so severe he would never be able to drive again. As unbelievable as it might be, his career was over.

I just knew this is what we were going to hear.

And how, you may ask, how did I know this?

I read it. The report was already out there.

I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket when I was struck by a magazine’s headline:

NASCAR BOMBSHELL: DALE JR. WILL NEVER RACE AGAIN! TRAGIC BRAIN INJURY FROM TERRIFYING CRASH.

I mean, my jaw dropped. This was beyond belief. Wasn’t he just cleared to race this weekend at Martinsville?

I snatched up the rather thin publication and paid $4.50 for it. An outrageous price but I had to get the news.

On the inside, there was another blaring headline:

DALE JR.’S NASCAR CAREER IS OVER! HORRIFYNG INJURIES SIDELINE RACING SUPERSTAR!

I quickly read the article and came upon such quotes as:

Regan Smith substituted for Earnhardt Jr. for two races and, according to Earnhardt Jr., did a very good job. Smith finished seventh at Kansas.

“This could very well be career ending for Dale Jr.”

“This is the cruelest blow. Dale Jr. had a shot at his first championship. But that dream is over.”

“You have to feel for Dale Jr. He thought this was his year.”

“A lot of old friends are counseling Dale Jr. to quit while he’s ahead.”

Man, this was heavy-duty stuff. And the writer got all his quotes from a single individual, named “Source.”

This “Source” person must really be an Earnhardt Jr. insider. How else could he or she get all of this information?

So at Martinsville, I knew, just knew, that Earnhardt Jr. was going to announce his forced retirement.

Of course, he didn’t.

Earnhardt Jr. did what everyone anticipated. He spoke of his rehab, the emotions and feelings he experienced while away from the track, how he now views his life and career and much more.

I really never thought he would do otherwise. I just felt having a bit of fun after reading a supermarket tabloid.

Those publications are, sometimes, outrageous. I’ve seen headlines about something called “The Bat Boy” to aliens in Congress (maybe there’s something to that one).

This particular magazine wasn’t any different. To wit:

HILLARY CLINTON: ‘PLEASE TAKE ME BACK,’ DYING BILL TELLS HER!

Like the other rags on the racks at the checkout line, this tabloid had a sneaky way of covering its tracks.

After each one of the blaring, stunning headlines about Earnhardt Jr., there was, in small print, this amendment: “Pals Fear.”

Sorta changes the meaning, doesn’t it?

Now, it is true that if he sustains another concussion, Earnhardt Jr.’s career could conceivably be over. He knows that.

“This changes the way I feel about it to where if I know I’ve suffered another concussion, or if I have symptoms after an accident, I’m definitely going to be a lot more responsible about it,” he said. “I can understand people’s opinions that they would try to push through it, or they would ignore it to stay in the car because I did the same thing in the past.

“Some concussions are kind of light, and the symptoms are real light. Some concussions are really bad, and I don’t care how tough you think you are, and your mind is not working the way it is supposed to, it scares the s— out of you.

“You are not going to think about race cars. You aren’t going to think about trophies. You are not going to think about your job. You’re going to be thinking about what do I have to do to get my brain working the way it was before?

“That’s going to jump right to the top of the priority list, I promise you.”

Earnhardt Jr. admitted being away from the track was difficult, especially during the time when doctors insisted he do nothing but rest – no TV, no video games.

But he got through that and concentrated on doing everything that doctors told him to do.

“You just kind of have to be patient and stay in regular contact with the doctors,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Once I got to know the guys at Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Center for Sports Medicine Concussion Program -UPMC), I was on the phone with Mickey (Dr. Michael Collins) twice a day, just talking about everything that I was doing and everything I was feeling, because I just wanted to do it right.

“I didn’t want to take any chances, and I wanted to get back in the car as soon as I could. But I wanted to make sure it was not too quick.”

Earnhardt Jr. also admitted it was hard not to be racing and having to watch someone else (Regan Smith) drive his No. 88 Chevrolet.

But Earnhardt Jr. knows he did the right thing – for the present and the future.

“I definitely take it more seriously now after everything I’ve learned,” he said. “I’m glad I did what I did. I hate the attention that it got. But I’m glad I did what I did. I’m glad I took the time off and made the choices that I made. They were hard to make, but I had to do it. I had to do it. I didn’t have a choice.

“I knew something wasn’t right. You can’t ignore concussions. It’s really dangerous doing that. You read about it in the papers, and I was going through it. I was living it. So, I had to make a choice, and I feel like I made the right one.”

Incidentally, Earnhardt Jr. was second fastest in Friday’s practice session for the TUMS 500.

And guess what? Seems he might be a married man shortly.

I read in the magazine, “He’s settled down with gorgeous girlfriend Amy Reimann, a romance friends say is headed for the altar.”

Wow. It’s amazing how much that “Source” person knows.

 

 

 

 

 

JUNIOR JOHNSON: Optimism Rewarded By Good ’90 Season With Geoff Bodine

In 1990 Junior Johnson hoped driver Geoff Bodine could help his team achieve a bit more success than it had in the previous few seasons. It turned out that Bodine did just that.

For the 1990 NASCAR Winston Cup season, Junior Johnson wanted Alan Kulwicki to be his driver.

But the strongly independent driver/owner was determined to continue to run his own operation, which is what he had done since he came to NASCAR in 1986.

So Johnson hired Geoff Bodine, an accomplished driver whose mechanical skills were second to none.

Although Johnson thought Bodine would be able to get the job done he had some lingering doubts. He hoped all would go well in 1990.

Turns out it did. Bodine won three races and finished third in the final point standings – the best year for Junior Johnson & Associates since 1986.

As good as that was it did not quell Johnson’s doubts.

When the year was over he felt the need to make a change.

The question was, could he make it happen?

Junior’s contributions to www.motorsportsunplugged.com will appear every other Friday throughout the season.

As I said earlier, I was cautiously optimistic about the 1990 season.

I had confidence in Geoff, although I admit it may not have seemed like it since I signed him to a one-year contract rather the usual three-season deal.

But I thought with him, Junior Johnson & Associates would have a good season. It was going to be the start of my 25th year as a team owner.

Things started out well enough. Geoff won a Gatorade Twin 125 Mile Qualifying Race at Daytona by completing all 50 laps without a pit stop.

Now, that raised a few eyebrows to say the least, because virtually every driver in both qualifying races had to make a stop for fuel.

Driving Johnson’s Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolets, Bodine won three times in 1990 and finished third in the final point standings.

There might have been suspicions about bending the rules a bit but I can tell you we never tampered with the car – other than to build the motor to run as strong as possible without over-consuming fuel.

I figured that if we could make that work, we would have the edge in a short qualifying race. Turns out we did.

Dale Earnhardt, who won the first qualifying race after coming from 12th to the lead in the final 10 laps, took notice of what Geoff had done.

He said that if our team ran conservative in the Daytona 500, and worried about gas mileage, we were going to get our butts whipped.

Well, we were not going to worry about gas mileage, that’s for sure.

But I could understand why Dale was feeling so cocky. He was the heavy favorite to win the 500. And as if to drive that point home, not only did he win a 125-miler, he won the Busch Series race on the day before the big event.

He probably would have won the Busch Clash earlier in the week but he wasn’t in it. As hard as it might be to believe, he didn’t win a pole in 1989. So he wasn’t eligible for the special race.

Geoff was and, in our first-ever race together, he finished fourth.

But it was clear Dale was on a roll – and a big one at that. He was set to sweep every event at Daytona.

He didn’t. In one of the strangest finishes ever in the Daytona 500, Dale, who dominated the race, was in the lead on the last lap.

Going into the second turn his car suddenly slowed down and drifted high on the track. That allowed Derrike Cope – who, in second place, was having the run of his life – to inherit the lead.

Cope held off Terry Labonte to win for the first time in his career. It was unbelievable.

Seems Earnhardt had run over a piece of broken bell housing. Imagine that. Something that unlikely had robbed him of his first Daytona 500 victory and spoiled what had been an exceptional Speedweeks.

Geoff wound up in ninth place, a lap down, and while I obviously wasn’t satisfied with that I comforted myself knowing we had made some headlines in Daytona.

I wish we had made more during the coming weeks.

Now don’t misunderstand me. We did well enough. After Daytona it didn’t go well at all when a blown engine put us in 33rd place at Richmond.

But then came a runnerup finish at Rockingham, a seventh at Atlanta, a fourth at Darlington and an eighth at North Wilkesboro. The only bump in that road was a 24th at Bristol after we got banged up.

Still, we earned six top-10 finishes in the first eight races of the year.

But I had seen this type of thing before in all three years Terry drove for us. It was good but not enough.

I wanted more, as did everyone else on the team – including Geoff.

Then we won at Martinsville. We did it with style. Geoff won the pole and led 270 laps.

I was particularly proud of the fact that he led the final 137 laps after my guys beat Rusty Wallace’s crew out of the pits on our final stops.

Our second victory of the season came at Pocono in July after Geoff drove his guts out and won a three-way duel with Rusty and Davey Allison on the last lap.

Geoff won for the third time in 1990 at Martinsville in September, which gave us a season sweep at the half-mile track.

I was especially pleased with this victory. Geoff recovered from a late-race spin and outran Dale to the checkered flag.

Way I figured it, anytime we could get the better of that black No. 3 car, well, that was a darn good thing.

Dale went on to win the championship by 26 points over Mark Martin.

Geoff and Junior Johnson & Associates finished third in points. Our three victories were the most we had earned in a single season since 1986, Darrell’s last year with us.

I have to admit that while we didn’t whoop up on the competition – again – the optimism I felt at the start of the year was rewarded.

I had to think 1991 would be better.

Even so, I wasn’t certain I would extend Geoff’s contract.

I felt the need to do this: I was going to go after – again – the driver I really wanted before the 1990 season started.

 

 

 

 

Martinsville Is Next Title Challenge For Top Three In Points

Points leader Brad Keselowski (right) is in a tight battle for the championship and faces a real test this weekend at Martinsville, where he has yet to win.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – I’ve heard it said – more than once, by the way – that there are only three contenders for this year’s championship: Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

That appears to be a logical assumption. After all, they are the top three in the point standings and are separated by a mere 20 points.

Keselowski is the leader with Johnson close on his heels just seven points back. Hamlin is third, 20 points behind.

To be honest, I’m not ready to rule out a couple of other drivers, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. Respectively, they are fourth and fifth in points. Bowyer is 25 out of first, Kahne 30.

With only four races remaining in the Chase time is running out for these two. But the sand hasn’t drained from the hourglass – yet.

Still, the odds are strong this year’s champ will be one of three drivers. For them every race matters. As the saying goes, failure is not an option.

Which means, obviously, that each needs to have a good finish at Martinsville, to say the least.

That’s not easy to accomplish. The half-mile track known as the “paperclip” is noted for its classic short-track characteristics.

The straights are long and the corners are tight. Cars build up high speeds before they must dramatically slow down to make the turns. Brakes are tested to the limit.

It’s all about close-quarter racing. There’s very little room to pass. Bumping and grinding are routine – and this sort of thing often leads to spins, encounters with the wall or worse. Anyone can be a victim.

As it is for every speedway, some drivers look forward to racing at Martinsville while others would just as soon see the place dug up.

Johnson has to be looking at this weekend’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 like a starving man who has just had a Porterhouse steak dinner put before him.

Jimmie Johnson is only seven points behind Keselowski in the point standings and, with an excellent record at Martinsville, has a chance to close the gap – or more.

Johnson ranks second among all active drivers with six victories at Martinsville. Only Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, with seven, has more.

Johnson credits Gordon with teaching him how to best get around the .526-mile Martinsville layout and it’s clear Gordon was a good teacher.

In 21 races at Martinsville, Johnson has finished outside the top 10 only three times. He has 14 top-five finishes and 18 among the top 10.

However, he finished 12th in April.

“If anything, we get a little frustrated through practice and then our qualifying effort usually isn’t what we want at Martinsville,” Johnson said. “But when they drop the green flag and we are racing, we usually go the right direction and I know it’s been a good track for us.”

As noted, while Johnson has an excellent record at Martinsville, it wasn’t built through his own skill. Along with Gordon’s, he had other help.

“I do well on low-grip tracks and Martinsville doesn’t have much grip,” Johnson said. “You really have to drive the car and finesse it in some ways and then attack in others.

“It took me actually getting lapped by Tony Stewart years ago, and then following him after he lapped me, and the light went off in my head. I went, ‘Oh, that’s how I’m supposed to get around this place.’ And since, I’ve been good.”

Johnson thinks Gordon will be an obvious contender this weekend and he expects to see Hamlin up front, too.

There’s good reason for that. Hamlin has four wins at Martinsville and has repeatedly established himself as a favorite for victory.

Three of his victories have come in the last six Martinsville races and in two of them, he led more laps than any other driver.

But, like Johnson, Hamlin has had his problems at Martinsville. However, in April he finished sixth and thinks the results will be much better this time out.

Even though he had a top-10 run in the spring, Hamlin said there were problems to resolve.

“The spring race is the one race at Martinsville where we did not run well,” Hamlin said. “We had some setup issues that we found in the car afterwards, some mistakes that we made, basically putting the wrong pieces in the wrong places.

“So that is hopefully why we ran so bad in the spring where we finished decent but not great. Hopefully that’s rectified. Honestly, we look forward to going back.”

Keselowski’s record at Martinsville does not approach that of either Johnson or Hamlin. But then, he’s not raced on the track nearly as much, which means he has less experience.

But it’s hard to ignore what he’s accomplished this season. He’s won five times, tied with Hamlin for tops among all competitors, finished in the top-five 12 times and 20 among the top 10.

Given he’s had some poor luck at Martinsville, Keselowski probably figures he’s due.

“Martinsville is just one of those tracks where it seems like there are numerous variables that we’ve struggled with, and I don’t think they’re our fault,” he said. “I look at last year. I think we were running fifth or sixth in the fall and just got caught up in a wreck on a late race restart caused by somebody who retaliated on the track.

“You don’t know how to predict that and I don’t feel like there was anything I could do about it.

“And then, similar in nature, this past spring where we were running fourth or fifth and then had that mishap down in the first turn and finished ninth.”

With his slim lead over Johnson, Keselowski can ill afford a repeat of such scenarios.

Come to think of it, Johnson and Hamlin can’t, either.

 

 

 

Battle of Martinsville – Fantasy Insight Martinsville 2

Jimmie Johnson

Take a drive around the great state of Virginia and you inevitably stumble across Civil War battlegrounds. This week at Martinsville we will have the “Battle of Martinsville” in the war to keep the sixth Cup off Jimmie Johnson’s shelf. Unlike the battle between the states which pitted North versus South and brother against brother; the “Battle of Martinsville” is a three-way fight for NASCAR’s top prize.

It is well documented how strong Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are at the track that is nicknamed “The Paper Clip.” Johnson has won 6 times with a winning percentage of 28.5%. Hamlin has four wins in his career with a winning percentage of 28.5%. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski is winless at Martinsville and has not posted a top five finish in five career starts.

But if you look at the first five starts in Johnson and Hamlin’s career at Martinsville they both averaged an 11.2 finish. Keselowski has posted an average finish of 13.4 in his five starts.

Look back at the race in March and you can see that the finishing order doesn’t always reflect how well a driver was doing. It appeared that the win would go to either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon until Clint Bowyer forced the issue on the restart.

But look a bit closer at the replay of that infamous crash and you can see Keselowski’s “Blue Deuce” running in fourth place. Bad Brad’s last two starts have shown a big improvement in starting position, qualifying 7th and 3rd respectively, versus an average starting position of 25.6 in his first three starts. Earlier this year we saw Keselowski win at tracks where he had never posted a top-five finish before so this week he will be a contender for the win.

Brad Keselowski

“The Battle of Martinsville” could be one of the title contender’s Waterloo. Load up on the top contenders for your Fantasy picks this week because they will bring their “A Game” the rest of the season.

Good luck with your fantasy racing picks this week and don’t forget to send in your pick for “Whiteboard Fantasy Racing” this week for Martinsville.

Send in your pick to win this week’s Cup race to dennis@racetalkradio.com for a chance to win a copy of the National Speedway Directory from SpeedwaysOnline.com.

Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Winner Last Week

Erik was the winner last week

Whiteboard Fantasy Standings After Kansas

Rank

Player

Total

1

Grainger

57

2

LAM

55

3

RA

52

4

Mike N

49

5

Gertie

47

6

DMIC

45

7

Carbon

44

8

Rick

40

9T

Chris U

34

9T

Aaron C

34

Weather Report

Tough weather forecast for Sunday…Variable Cloudiness with a period of showers possible.

If you have a question about Fantasy Racing send it to dennis@racetalkradio.com and get it answered next week. 

NASCAR by the Numbers

Using a proprietary race analysis technique we take the fans inside the numbers every week. DMIC’s rating system has been in use since 2002 and has proven to pick the contenders from the pretenders!

Consistency is King (Last Five Races)

Denny Hamlin

 

Driver

Last 5

B Keselowski

93

J Johnson

93

J Gordon

93

D Hamlin

92

C Bowyer

91

K Kahne

91

M Truex

90

M Kenseth

88

K Harvick

88

B Vickers

88 

Horses for Courses (Track Rating)

Driver

Course

D Hamlin

95

D Earnhardt Jr

93

J Johnson

92

J Gordon

91

C Edwards

89

K Harvick

89

J Logano

88

R Newman

87

B Keselowski

87

AJ Allmendinger

86 

Type Casting (Track Type Factor)

Driver

Type

C Bowyer

95

D Hamlin

95

J Johnson

94

T Stewart

94

K Kahne

94

B Keselowski

92

M Kenseth

90

D Earnhardt Jr

90

J Gordon

87

K Harvick

87

Power Rating (240 Minimum to Qualify as Contender)

Driver

Power

D Hamlin

282

J Johnson

279

B Keselowski

272

C Bowyer

271

J Gordon

271

D Earnhardt Jr

270

M Kenseth

264

K Harvick

263

T Stewart

263

K Kahne

262

C Edwards

260

M Truex

259

R Newman

256

Ky Busch

255

J Logano

255

G Biffle

255

AJ Allmendinger

254

B Vickers

252

P Menard

245

J Burton

244

JP Montoya

238

M Ambrose

237

J McMurray

236

A Almirola

233

S Hornish Jr

230

Ku Busch

230

D Ragan

229

B Labonte

228

T Kvapil

223

C Mears

222

L Cassill

221

D Gilliland

220

D Blaney

212

DMIC’s Fantasy Picks- Lubricated by TheOilMedics.com

Each week we will take you beyond the numbers to handicap the field from top to bottom to help your Fantasy Racing team succeed. You are also invited to join Lori Munro and I on “White Board Fantasy Racing” every Monday night on “Doin’ Donuts” at 8pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com. Win fun prizes by picking just the race winners in our unique format. Send your picks to info@racetalkradio.com to enter. 

Top Pick (Last Week 9th)

Jimmie Johnson- Doesn’t pay to bet against the “Big Dog” here

(4 to 1 Odds)

Best Long Shot (Odds of 20-1 or More) (Last Week 30th)

Joey Logano- Strong track rating here for driver and team

(40 to 1 Odds)              

Top Dogs (Group A in Yahoo) (Last Week 8th)                 

Brad Keselowski- Was sitting in good position in March race before final restart

(10 to 1 Odds)

Second Class (Group B in Yahoo) (Last Week 27th)                  

Clint Bowyer- Always great on flat tracks

(12 to 1 Odds)

Middle Packer (Group C in Yahoo) (Last Week 26th)                  

Brian Vickers- Any time he races this car he has been a contender   

Crazy 8s for Martinsville 2

Each week Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen battle in the most unique racing game around! We pick one driver each from each 8 driver group using the current points’ standings. Our picks can help you round out your fantasy racing lineup!

Last Race at Kansas: Dennis won the matchup 3-2

Season Record: Lori leads Dennis at 19-13

Group 1: Dennis picks Jimmie Johnson and Lori picks Denny Hamlin

Group 2: Lori picks Dale Earnhardt Jr and Dennis picks Matt Kenseth

Group 3: Dennis picks Joey Logano and Lori picks Jeff Burton

Group 4: Lori picks Casey Mears and Dennis picks David Ragan

Group 5: Dennis picks Brian Vickers and Lori picks Sam Hornish Jr

Do you have what it takes to handicap the races? Join Lori and Dennis every week and play in the Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Series! Send your pick for the Cup race to info@racetalkradio.com

It Was Wild, But Kansas Race Didn’t Do Much To Shake Up The Chase

Jimmie Johnson wrecked his Chevrolet at Kansas and it appeared his title hopes would take a hit. However, his crew quickly made repairs and Johnson finished ninth. He remains seven points behind Brad Keselowski in the standings.

It was said that the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway might be the “wildcard” event in this year’s edition of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

I’m not so sure about “wildcard.” But there is no question the race was wild.

In the kind of demolition derby we’re accustomed to seeing at, say, Talladega, the race on the repaved and reconfigured Kansas track was loaded with incidents.

There were 14 caution periods, a record for Kansas, and nearly all of them were created by wrecks that involved one, or more, cars.

Matt Kenseth survived the mayhem to win for the third time this season and the second in the last three Chase races.

But even Kenseth did not escape unscathed. His Roush Fenway Racing Ford had its share of crumpled metal as it took the checkered flag.

“I thought it was over when I got in the fence when Aric (Almirola) wrecked under Mark (Martin),” Kenseth said. “I was watching them and trying to make sure I didn’t hit them and I flat sided it pretty bad.

“It ended up working in our favor. They fixed the body as good as it was when we started and we had to take less gas on that last pit stop and this pit crew put me out front.”

Kenseth, who will compete with Joe Gibbs Racing next year, took the lead on lap 219 and stayed there for the remaining 49.

The Kansas race was filled with wrecks, mishaps and caution periods – a record 14 of them. One of the victims was Kyle Busch, whose crash caused him to finish 31st.

The race was decidedly uncharacteristic for a 1.5-mile “cookie cutter” track, the type of which fans have often criticized for boring races.

But there was nothing boring about Kansas. Perhaps that was due to the repaving – which always increases speed – and the new graduated banking, which often produces a second groove.

“If they wanted that kind of racing they got it,” said Trevor Bayne, who was involved in an accident on lap 170 of 267. “It was good racing, I felt like, but if you stepped out of the groove too much you were busting your butt and that is what everybody did.”

Many drivers said that although the race was indeed a wreckfest, the changes made at Kansas were welcome

“This place is going to be awesome with the progressive banking,” said Martin Truex Jr., who finished second. “You could already feel it today coming in.”

As much as the accidents shook up the race’s finishing order, they didn’t do much to alter the Chase point standings.
Brad Keselowski, who finished eighth at Kansas, still holds the lead. He remains seven points ahead of Jimmie Johnson – the same margin he held prior to the race.

“Everybody has been asking all season long where have all the cautions been?” Keselowski said. “The answer is that they flew to Kansas because there was caution after caution and it seemed like every wreck today seemed to happen in front of me.

“I’m glad to survive the carnage and brought back a decent car.”

Johnson, who finished ninth, survived when in all likelihood he shouldn’t have.

His Chevrolet slammed the wall in the fourth turn on lap 137 and only a Herculean repair effort by his Hendrick Motorsports team kept the five-time champion in the race. In fact, he did not lose a lap.

“It is pretty tore up,” Johnson said of his car. “I’m definitely proud of this team and the fact that we never give up. We continue to fight to try to get every point that we can.

“But I crashed the car. I spun out trying to get inside the No. 56 (Truex, Jr.). He bobbled a little in front of me and I thought that was an opportunity to jump in the gas real hard.

“When I did that, my car took off and I couldn’t catch it. All in all a good day, but it could have been a lot better. I think we could have been in victory lane and stretched some points on these guys.”

Denny Hamlin finished 13th but remains third in points. However, he lost some ground. He’s now 20 points behind Keselowski, five more than he was after Charlotte.

Clint Bowyer remains fourth in points and his sixth-place finish allowed him to make up three points on Keselowski. He’s now 25 back.

Kasey Kahne, fourth at Kansas, remains fifth in points and he, too, gained ground. He’s now 30 in arrears.

So, going into Martinsville, the first of the final four races remaining in the Chase, the championship scrap remains pretty much what it was prior to the Kansas mayhem.

The top five drivers in the standings, separated by 30 points, are still the obvious contenders for the title.

“I see it coming all the way down to Homestead,” Keselowski said, referring to the last race of the season. “It will be decided there.

I’m happy with the season that we’ve had so far and the position that we’re in.

“But it’s going to come down to the last race. That’s pretty obvious after today.”

Most Popular Driver: If Not Earnhardt Jr., Then Who?

Before the dominance of Dale Earnhardt Jr. as NASCAR’s most popular driver, Bill Elliott won the award 16 times, which is a record.

When the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was unable to race at Charlotte and Kansas – Chase races Nos. 5 and 6 – due to a concussion sustained at Talladega, a collective sigh could be felt around “Junior Nation.”

It dawned on me that there was no current heir apparent to the NASCAR/NMPA Most Popular Driver title if something took Earnhardt Jr. out of racing permanently. He is vastly popular despite the fact he is not a prolific winner and hasn’t won a championship.

This season was so promising but now is laid to waste like so many others since he teamed with Hendrick Motorsports. Some would say it’s been that way ever since he came into Sprint Cup racing

Nevertheless, Earnhardt Jr. has captured the hearts of his fans, who dutifully choose him as their favorite year, after year.

This took my thoughts two ways: Who could even try to take over the most popular title and who came before to pave the way for Earnhardt Jr.?

It’s far easier to look to the past than project into the future, so to the past we go.

The first year the most popular driver award was given was in 1956 and last week’s subject, Curtis Turner, won.  He had a one-year term, however, and “Fireball” Roberts held the title the following season.

In fact, there wasn’t a repeat winner until Richard Petty scored his second nod in 1964, his first coming in 1962. In between Fred Lorenzen got a turn. In 1965 Lorenzen became the second repeat winner. Petty, gaining the hearts of his fans, won a third term in 1968.

Bobby Allison earned some notoriety in 1971 with his first of four consecutive most popular driver honors. But Petty beat that by earning his fourth through eighth titles from 1974-1978.

Allison was never one to roll over to Petty. He won his fifth through eighth designations as most popular driver from 1980-1983.

And then there was “Awesome Bill” Elliott from Dawsonville, Ga., who came on the scene. Elliot got his first title of most popular driver in 1984 and won it consecutively until 1988.

Richard Petty was one of the first to earn the most popular driver honor and he did so many times in his career.

Darrell Waltrip interrupted Elliot’s popularity in the years 1989 and 1990, but Elliot rebounded in the 1991-2000, gathering a total of 15 honors.

Dale Earnhardt halted Elliot’s accumulation of most popular driver awards in 2001 as the late driver earned his one and only nod that fateful year.

In 2002 Elliot won his 16th, and last, title – a record.

From 2003 to the present Earnhardt Jr.’s name has been etched on the MPD trophy. He is a beacon for his fans, the symbol of the sport, and a goodwill ambassador for NASCAR.

Which begs the question, if not Earnhardt Jr. as most popular driver, then who? Which of the field could possibly fill his driving shoes in the hearts of the NASCAR-loving public?

The Busch brothers have been far too brusque and bristly to earn the honors. Tony Stewart is likable to his fans, but he doesn’t quite fit the image. Matt Kenseth was a possibility leaving Ford for Toyota may have closed that avenue.

Carl Edwards is certainly likable, so he is a possibility. But some say his charming exterior thinly veils his anger. Denny Hamlin could be on a short list, but a lot of people feel he considers himself morally superior, so he could be blacklisted.

Brad Keselowski won the most popular driver title three times in the Nationwide Series – he is tied with Kenny Wallace for the most to date. He is a strong candidate for earning the Cup title. A championship would almost solidify it – but perhaps not.

It seems difficult to figure out the criteria used by the fans to choose the most popular driver. Elliot had won the Winston Million in 1985 and the championship in 1988. He was likable, had a goofy grin and a nice-guy persona.

Earnhardt Jr. has yet to win much of note in the last decade. His two Nationwide Series championships in 1998 and 1999 are old news. He’s won a Daytona 500 but that was also a long time ago – Kenseth has scored two since then. So, why is he most popular nine and possibly 10 years running?

It has to be more than simply being Earnhardt’s son. It has to be more than old nationwide championships and a Daytona 500 win. It is something intangible and unexplainable that gets Earnhardt Jr. the fan vote year in and year out.

One day Earnhardt Jr.’s reign will end. When that finally happens, who do you think NASCAR’s next most popular driver will be?

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