It wasn’t the kind of win that Smith was looking for on the track last week at Kansas, but this week has given a big win to Smith in other ways. After spending the last two weeks subbing in a car for a top-tier team, Regan Smith showed the racing world what most die-hard NASCAR fans already knew – Regan Smith deserves a full-time ride in a good car.
There is nothing bad to say about Furniture Row Racing – the team Smith has driven for since signing with them in January 2009. They are the stuff that the American dream is made of. They have survived in a sport that has a high attrition rate for start-up teams and have held their own. They have not contended for a championship – Smith has never made the Chase, but they do have a win with Smith at what many consider to be the toughest track on the circuit – Darlington. Yet, FRR is still a mid-pack team on at best. The win at Darlington in which Smith held off a charging Carl Edwards for the win showed that he is a capable, talented driver. There is no denying that he has done a commendable job in what is at best mediocre equipment.
On September 24,2012, it was announced that Regan would not be returning to FRR for 2013 and would be replaced by Kurt Busch. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that a driver swap would take place before Charlotte between Smith and Busch. But when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was forced to miss a couple of races starting at Charlotte because of a concussion, Smith was called on to take the wheel of a dream ride, albeit only for a couple of weeks.
Smith stepped up to the plate in a big way at Charlotte. He was running consistently in the top ten, with many accolades from 88 team crew chief, Steve Letarte, before the 88 car blew a motor for the first time this year. Smith then went on to have another solid run finishing in the top ten in Kansas.
Before he had even run his second race in the 88 at Kansas, it was announced that JR Motorsports – the Nationwide team of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – was looking at Smith for a full-time ride for its team in 2013. On Wednesday of this week, it was announced that the deal was done and Smith was signed for the #5 Nationwide team for 2013. Someone had been paying attention to the display of talent Smith was putting forth.
The news release from JR Motorsports says that Junior and Regan have been talking for several years about working together, but the timing was never right. After seeing Smith get on the wheel on the 88 and run up front at Charlotte, suddenly the deal had life.
Although Smith does not have a Sprint Cup deal in place for next year (according to an article by Lee Spencer, his tenure in the 51 was to be a tryout of sorts to see how Regan fit with the team), he has secured a top-tier Nationwide series ride that could bring new life to his racing career, much like it has for Elliott Sadler the last couple of years in that series.
If Regan Smith stays with the 51 Phoenix Racing team next year, he is likely to remain a mid-pack runner as their equipment is also mediocre. But getting a chance to drive for an organization such as JR Motorsports at the Nationwide Series level could be just what he needs to get into a top-tier Sprint Cup ride down the road and not just drive for what amounts to a field-filling team.
The onus is on Smith to prove his worth; he has potential that has turned the heads of the right people at the right time. Now Smith, after delivering for Hendrick Motorsports filling in for the 88 team with solid runs, has the opportunity to turn those good results into a career as a top-level driver if he can get into the right situation with the right Cup team down the road. Showing what he can do in great equipment can open that door. He has been given the best opportunity yet to get there. To me, that is considered a win. Now let’s see what he does with it. I, for one, think he will make it happen.
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I have seen some NASCAR media members and heard callers on a NASCAR radio show this morning talking about what needs to be done to prevent another tragedy such as what we saw at Pocono Speedway this weekend. Many are calling on NASCAR to make changes immediately in response. Knee-jerk reactions to tragedies like this one are always a bad idea. Emotions are high and making decisions that will be far-reaching and long-lasting need to be made based on logic and fact, not on emotion. I understand wanting to fix the problem, but intelligent, thought-out solutions take time and logic, not emotional reaction.
Here is a fact of life that transcends NASCAR and other sports – accidents happen. What if NASCAR had stopped the race and told everyone to get to their cars? Have you ever been to a live race before? Even when I parked as close as a regular fan could possibly park at Charlotte one year, it still took me 25 minutes to get to my car when we left the race with 100 laps left (I had to leave for a family situation) and no crowd to contend with.
There most likely would have still been people walking and moving through the parking areas had they stopped the race as soon as the storm warning was issued. Then we would likely be hearing complaints that NASCAR made the wrong call in that instance, as well. It is and was a no-win situation for NASCAR. If they stop the race too late, they are wrong. If they call it before the rain ever starts, they will be accused of “giving” the win whomever the leader is. It would not matter who that driver is, someone would be shouting and crying that NASCAR had a reason for letting that driver win.
I have been sad since I first heard the news last night of the fan that died and those that are injured. I spent time praying for the injured and for the family of the man that died this morning. I pray that the injured recovery quickly and that there is comfort for the family of the deceased. He is my brother. All of those fans were my brothers and sisters. We share a common love for our sport and no matter how much we fuss and feud and ridicule one another for the choice of driver they support, we are still family when the day is done.
We will never know why people had to be hurt and die. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust – sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why things happen and nobody is immune from tragedy. Accidents happen. It is a fact of life. There are things beyond our control.
I am all for making the events as safe as possible. I am all for the safety of everyone at the track. There have been other weather-related deaths at sporting events in the past. It is just the way this world is and there is no avoiding it. It was simply an act of nature. And there is no way to fix that.
The only way every single person would have been out of harm’s way at Pocono would have been to shut down the track that morning and cancel all activities – based on a weather forecast – hours before anything materialized. No matter what call NASCAR would have made once the storm was headed that way, there still would have been people in danger of being injured or killed. There is no way they could have cleared the facilities and had everyone back in their cars or a place of safety in less than 30 minutes.
Where can you possibly move 70,000 – 120,000 people in a matter of minutes and have everyone completely safe? I would think that kind of mass exodus after being warned of danger would be more likely to cause a panicked reaction. That in turn could lead to more injuries and deaths than what we saw at Pocono as the result of a storm. That is why there is no right answer or “fix” to what happened. According to the National Lightening Safety Institute, the chances of an individual being struck by lightening is 1 in 280,000. Making wholesale changes to NASCAR procedure to react to those kinds of odds makes no sense.
Nobody is to blame and nothing can be done to make every spectator 100% safe 100% of the time. Sometimes things just happen that are beyond anybody’s control.
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Restarts. It is the subject that won’t die. Maybe the news of AJ Almendinger being released from Penske Racing today will finally overtake the main subject of callers on NASCAR radio programs for the last few days. This morning on a NASCAR radio show, the hosts were complaining that restarts had been the topic of conversation for four and a half days now. The complaints of fans is not necessarily the fact that Elliot Sadler had his shot at a win taken from him by a bad call from NASCAR (which they admitted), but rather the inconsistency of the rulings of NASCAR.
What happened on the restart in question last Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at the Brickyard was basically a “ball and strike” call that the officials missed. They made the wrong call. But by making a small adjustment to restarts, all doubt about who makes it back to the line first could be resolved.
First, remove the line that determines when the green flag drops and leave it to the flagman’s discretion as to when he throws it. Secondly, give the leader the option of which lane he starts from (as is the rule now), but drop the rule that says the leader has to cross the line first. This is RACING! Let them RACE to the line. By making the throwing of the green flag random, it is up to the drivers to react to it and then let the racing begin. By making this adjustment, you would also stop all the games of the leader holding back and trying to draw a penalty on the second place car.
I heard a caller on the show I mentioned who made a point about the leader spinning his tires or missing a gear during a restart, thus causing the second place car to cross the start/finish line first and receive a penalty. To my dismay, one of the hosts asked him if the leader should be “punished” for missing a gear. He tried to say that expecting a driver to not miss a gear is like saying a baseball player should never strike out or a wide receiver should never drop a ball. Huh?? Well, yes. Exactly the point!
When a batter strikes out, he misses an opportunity for his team to get runners on base and score a run. When a wide receiver drops the ball, his team does not advance or score a touchdown. And if a driver spins his wheels or misses a gear, he drops behind and loses an opportunity to advance or maintain the lead. That was about the most absurd comparison I’ve ever heard. I could use the same logic as that talk show host to say that if a crew member misses a lug nut on a pit stop, the driver should not be punished with a penalty. The same could be said about speeding on pit road. The essence of racing – for all of sports for that matter – is about performing and not making mistakes that cost you.
So drop the restart rule as it is and let the flagman be the one playing games. Maybe he throws the green as soon as the pace car is clear and on pit road. Maybe he throws it when they are close the to line. Leave it up to him and make the drivers react accordingly. And if the leader stumbles on the way to the line, then he faces the consequences of his mistake – not the driver of the second place car. It would remove all doubt about the restarts and improve the racing, in my humble opinion.
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Facebook Changed Everyone’s Email to @Facebook.com; Here’s How to Fix Yours
Facebook just removed everyone’s email address from their profile and replaced it with an
@facebook.com email address without asking you. Here’s how to easily fix the problem and change Facebook email back to your real email address in your profile.
Facebook launched its own email service back in 2010, which was promptly forgotten by everyone. This morning, Forbes noticed that they removed everyone’s email addresses from their profiles, replacing them with an
@facebook.com email address instead (not Facebook’s internal email address which they use for notifications and password resets, just the one listed on your profile). Luckily, it’s easy to get your old email address back on your profile:
- Click “About” on your profile and scroll down to your email address. Click “Edit” to change them.
- Click on the circle next to your Facebook email address and change its setting to “Hidden From Timeline”.
- Click on the circle next to your other email addresses and change their settings to “Shown On Timeline”.
- Click the Save button at the bottom of the Edit popup (Don’t forget this step).
That’s all it takes. It’s a really quick fix, but it was a big jerk move for Facebook to do this without asking permission, or even telling you that it happened. Spread this info around so people don’t get stuck without any contact information, too, lest we lose the one aspect of Facebook that was still useful.
Update: A Facebook spokesperson has responded to everyone’s questions on the subject, but they don’t have much to say—except that yes, they have given everyone a Facebook email address and rolled out a “new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines.” They did not explain why (or even acknowledge) that all of these addresses were made default on people’s profiles. You can read the full response over at Matthew Keys’ blog. Thanks, @MsLaurenRae!
TNT has really grown into a great network for NASCAR coverage over the last few years. There were a couple of their personalities that I did not particularly care for when they first started covering the sport. But with those folks moving on to other endeavors and with what could be described as natural growth through experience, TNT has had some really good coverage this year.
They have shown good racing on the track – showing more than one car at a time. The commentary has also been really good. Maybe the reason I like it better than other coverage this year is that the booth is not constantly bringing up their own accomplishments and stroking their own egos. Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach are very personable and knowledgeable on the air. I also like the role that Larry McReynolds covers on TNT. Although his grammar makes my wife (who is a teacher) cringe, there are few if any guys more knowledgeable about race cars than Larry Mac. He does a really good job for them.
This week, however, had it not been for Twitter I would have missed many of the stories and events that happened and were never even mentioned on TV. With about 18 laps left in the race, Kyle Busch had mechanical issues again. That is a big story considering the last three weeks of engine failure they have experienced. But while that was happening the TV coverage was about Brian Vickers driving in LeMans last week.
We also missed a spin by Bobby Labonte that never got mentioned, as well as a spin by Travis Kvapil. I would not have known about any of this had I not been following along on Twitter at the same time. Kevin Harvick ran out of gas coming to the pits, and we did hear about that on TNT – about 20 laps after it happened.
Another complaint I read every week from fans and media on Twitter is about commercials. It is a hard thing for a producer to know how a race will unfold and how to time the commercials accordingly. When the race stays green and there are very few cautions, it shortens the time that they can meet their obligations with advertisers and meet the quota they are contracted to do. I get that. What I have a problem with is putting so many commercial breaks back to back where there is more time in commercials than there is covering the race.
Sometimes it just seems like there are more commercials than coverage when in fact that is not the case. Maybe it’s just because we hate an interruption to the racing action. It is magnified when a commercial causes a network to miss something big happening on the track. There is no way to predict that in most cases and that is just the nature of the beast. But I went back and timed some of the ratios in today’s race to get real evidence of what seemed like excessive commercials.
We returned from commercial on lap 77 to be greeted with 11 seconds of racing. Then we went to an under-car/in-car split screen in the car running 18th for the next 1:55 That was immediately followed by another commercial break. Maybe I should include that 1:55 in commercial time because we had the sponsors of the 1 car prominently displayed on our TV screens the whole time. The fact that they spent so much time showing that angle on the 18th place car and not on a leader tells me that the sponsor paid for that time focused on their logo. The next segment they showed the 18th place car for almost two minutes again.
From lap 75 to lap 85, we had 13 minutes 22 seconds of commercials and 6 minutes 17 seconds of race coverage which included the first caution of the race. That included one segment of pit stops under caution (most of which we missed) that was a whole 27 seconds long before returning to another commercial break. It’s even worse if I include the 1 minute 55 seconds I mentioned in that last paragraph, making it 15:17 of commercials and 4:22 of racing during a 19:39 stretch of coverage. Breaking that down to percentage, that means that in that stretch of coverage, about 20% of it was racing coverage and 80% was commercials.
Most fans would not be that upset about the numbers of commercials and the missed action if the networks went to split screen coverage for all of the races instead of just a few. I am more likely to stay in front of my TV longer when there is split screen coverage as I can still see what is happening at the track. Usually during commercial breaks, I take time to grab a drink or snack, or do something else that needs to be done. I believe that I am most like people in that regard, and by doing the split-screen the advertisers would have more people actually watch the commercials.
Another example of missed revenue for ad companies is the fact that many times I cannot watch the race at the time it is on and will watch it later on DVR. Guess what I do when watching on DVR? Yep, I fast forward through the commercials every time. But when I can still watch action on the track even though it is smaller on the split screen, I will not fast forward through it. I really don’t understand why the advertisers and networks cannot understand this.
Hopefully, TNT will get back on the right track next week with their coverage. I understand that road courses are tougher to cover because one camera cannot stay on a single car all the way around the track. There is a lot of switching and moving cameras from car to car, so therefore you are going to miss a few things. I’m hoping that was the case this week. Some of the things that they failed to even mention were inexcusable – a car spinning and a car running out of fuel are a big deal. They are still head and shoulders above previous network coverage this year, but they can do better than that. Maybe they will continue to learn and grow and make improvements.
With a son currently in chemo from a tumor found in his leg last fall, this news means a lot to me personally.
From Stewart-Haas Racing news release:
At Sonoma, Ryan Newman will drive the #39 Quicken Loans/Children’s Tumor Foundation Chevy in hopes of raising money through donations to www.fuelthecure.org for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Newman’s sponsor, Quicken Loans, has a particularly close tie to the Children’s Tumor Foundation as Nick Gilbert, the 15-year-old son of company chairman and founder Dan Gilbert, has NF (Neurofibromatosis) and is the national ambassador for the charity.
I got a chuckle this morning reading some of Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s post-race comments. He talked about how he was looking for debris or gremlins that might bring out a late caution and erase his dominant lead over Tony Stewart. Junior has been bitten so many times in the last few months. I can understand him expecting a win to be snatched away again by things out of his control.
The crowd was going crazy at the end of the Michigan race. It was pure elation for Junior Nation in Michigan on Sunday. But all NASCAR fans have good reason to celebrate a win for Junior as well as the strong season he is having.
NASCAR Is Hurting
You have to look no further than your television set during a race broadcast to know that NASCAR is hurting. The stands are usually not even half full. The tracks try to put up a good front and what appear to be bloated numbers. There have been several times when they have released attendance reports and I have thought there was no way they had that many people there.There is still big money flowing into the sport and the race teams, but no matter how they paint the picture, we can see that with a loss of fans in attendance and lost TV ratings comes a reduction in revenue generated for and by the sport.
The biggest shock to me was seeing how empty Bristol was. That used to be the most coveted ticket in NASCAR. This past spring race the stands could not have had more than 50% of capacity in attendance. TV ratings are down over the last few years and remained stagnant.
There Are Many Factors To Blame
I think it goes without saying that the economy has had an effect on attendance. People are hurting with unemployment at high rates the last 2-3 years, as well as the rise in the cost of gasoline since 2009. When you have to tighten your financial belt, fun things are the first to go. People just can’t afford to shell out several hundreds to a couple of thousand bucks to go spend a weekend at the race like they used to. Hopefully we can get some real change in this country and get things on the right track, but in the meantime recreational activities – like going to a race – suffer. People just can’t afford to go like they once could.
The second factor I believe is the dominance of the 48 team the last few years. Jimmie Johnson is the most under-appreciated sports figure of our time. One day when we are older, we will have a greater appreciation and understanding of exactly what it is that he has accomplished in this sport. Considering the era that he did it in, I believe (like it or not) that he will go down as one of the top three if not THE top driver of all time in NASCAR. And a lot of people have a problem with that. It is exciting from a historical standpoint, but it is boring and frustrating to watch one team totally dominate the sport for 5 years like those guys did. I have heard from many Junior fans on some forums that I frequent that they have quit watching races because they were sick of seeing Junior run bad, especially with the 48 dominating.
I think a third and smaller problem is the coverage of the sport. Every week on NASCAR talk shows and on forums people talk about how bad the coverage of the races are and how bad the announcers are. I’m not going to bash anyone here. I have some that I like and some, uhh, not so much. But one overwhelming similarity in all the broadcast partners that I see is narcissism. There are too many of these guys – especially former drivers in the booth – that focus on themselves during the broadcast. As Forrest Gump would say – that’s all I’m gonna say about that!
Dale Junior Winning Overrides These Factors
So in saying all of that, I believe that Junior running well, winning races, and showing championship form (though it’s too early in the season to call him a contender) will bring a lot of fans back to the table. Anyone associated in any way with NASCAR knows that Junior’s fans outnumber other fans many times over. With him showing promise, those folks have a reason to show up at the track again. It could be a great thing for NASCAR as it could get TV numbers back up to where they were a few years ago, as well as attendance at the tracks.
The sport of NASCAR lives off of sponsorships. It is the blood that flows through NASCAR’s veins. Without the sponsors who pay big money into this sport, NASCAR would be another Saturday night special at the local dirt track. Sponsors pay many millions of dollars to get advertising on the cars for the millions of fans to see and buy their products. If viewership and attendance is down, that means there are fewer people for them to advertise to. That in turn lowers the value and lowers the revenue flowing into NASCAR and it’s teams. It trickles down from there and all the team employees, track vendors, and support personnel lose revenue and lose jobs because of it.
So whether you love him or hate him, as a NASCAR fan you should not be against him winning some and contending each week. It has the potential to keep this sport alive and vibrant. As a NASCAR fan, we need to understand that with his incredible clout and massive fan base, a win for Junior is a win for all of NASCAR.
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I do not get it. Every year – and I mean EVERY year – since the Chase format has started, we have some guys and gals on TV and in the media talking about who the championship contender is sometime in June or July. That is the most absurd pontification in all of motorsports.
When a team is running well at this point of the season, it only means one thing – they’ll probably make the Chase. It has no bearing whatsoever on what happens the last 10 races of the year – the races that makeup the Chase format. Jimmie Johnson has proved that numerous times. Tony Stewart proved it just last year. After the Michigan race last year, Tony Stewart was 11th in points. Let me type that slower so you can read it slower and get it – he was eleventh! In 2010 – the last year of his five year run, Jimmie Johnson was 6th in points.
Yet, year after year after year, we start hearing the talk of NASCAR championship contenders about this time of year. It is utterly ridiculous. There are so many other topics that are relevant to the moment that we can be discussing.
I understand the need for hope for any fan of any team. Just look at Cubs fans who have been hoping for for about a century. Junior Nation has been hoping for an end to the win slump, and this year they have gotten it. They have a lot to celebrate this year. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been a contender in almost every race. He has led laps and leads all of NASCAR with 6 top fives and 12 top tens in fifteen races. That is worth being excited about! Junior Nation is hoping for a championship, too. And if he can continue to run during the Chase like he is now, he has as good a chance as anyone.
Perhaps that is best way for the pundits to word their assessment of his season. But saying that any driver is the favorite right now is purely hope and speculation. I’m not putting him down or taking a shot; he’s the hottest driver in NASCAR right now. He deserves the accolades he has gotten the last few weeks. But the Chase is an entirely different beast. Just ask Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin.
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There are a lot of variables that go into making the right choices each week for your fantasy lineup – momentum is big; history at the track they’re running is important. You also have to have a little luck. Last week I had Kyle Busch as my A driver. My luck ran out the same time his did when his motor went up in smoke.
Variables like that are unpredictable. But make the right choices each week and the numbers will even out over time. This week one of the variables that I always take into account – how a driver has run at a particular track in the past – is being thrown out the window. With a newly paved track, you will have to depend on the other factors such as momentum this season as a determining factor. Here are the drivers to look out for and the ones I am running in my fantasy league this week.
A Driver – Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has been on a bit of a tear recently; enough so that he took over the points lead last week. I’d say that qualifies for having momentum. Kenseth is also a dependable pick anytime they run an intermediate track, and Kenseth has performed well at Michigan over the years with two wins, eleven top 5′s, and sixteen top 10′s in 25 races there over his career. Jimmie Johnson is hungry for his first win at Michigan, which is something I would normally take into consideration in my decision and it was a close call between these two drivers. But Johnson finished 27th there last year. Another good choice would be Kevin Harvick who finished 2nd and 4th in today’s practices.
B Drivers – Mark Martin and Greg Biffle
Mark Martin led the first practice today. I am trying to use Martin as much as possible right now for two reasons – he is running a limited season so I can use up his starts on the the tracks I like him on, and he has been on a tear recently – all the Toyotas have been strong this year. Martin also has 5 wins at Michigan, which solidifies my choice for him after him topping the charts in practice. This is a no-brainer.
Okay, so I said all that stuff about ignoring past performance at Michigan only to then contradict my reasoning with my pick. Although Greg Biffle has been the points leader most of the season, he seemed to have cooled down last week at Pocono where he lost the point lead and dropped two positions back to 3rd in points. But he has run well all season – well enough to be the points leader until last week. Biffle has two wins at Michigan and runs well on the intermediate tacks. He finished the practices today in 4th and 2nd. My backup choices are Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
C Driver – Trevor Bayne
This one is easy, too. This year there are nothing but hard choices in the “C” category, but since Trevor Bayne is running even fewer races than Mark Martin, I am using him every time he starts just so I can save my one or two other decent “C” drivers for other starts. My backup choice is Aric Almirola, who is also showing some promise the last couple of races including winning a pole.
Good luck with your fantasy choices this week! Thanks for reading and remember our troops in harm’s way this month. They are still fighting for us overseas and protecting our freedom so we can enjoy American pastimes like NASCAR racing!
Here is a statement from owner, James Finch, today regarding the decision to keep Kurt Busch in the 51 the rest of the year:
“We have met with Kurt. At the end of the day, we are racers so we’re going racing together with Kurt and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. We know adjustments have to be made but how we fix that is between Kurt and myself. We’re going to go to the track, work hard, race hard and work on trying to attract a sponsor – and we’re going to do that together.”