WFO Radio Show Archives

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back From the Dead

I'm back! I know, it has been awhile. I have been working on a new radio project, A group of collegues from a former radio station have started an internet radio station. I host The Joe Castello Show each morning from 10am-12pm. The show replays during the day at 3pm and 8pm ET. The Joe Castello Show is also available on iTunes.
This project is unique because I'm not limited by anything. There is no FCC control(even though I don't curse, yet) and no subject I must stick too. The show covers politics, issues, sports and pretty much anything I feel like talking about. It is all about idea exchange.
This show will also be the stepping stone for another project that is soon to be announced. So, if you are a racing fan who used to listen to my show, Power Shift on XM Satellite Radio, stay tuned. My next project might interest you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The Kyle Busch vs. Tony Stewart finish at Daytona was everything fans had hoped for. Two stars battling to the checkered flag with one crossing the stripe like Stroker Ace. Afterwards, the main discussion was; how can we prevent this from happening? Answer: You don't! That is the type of finish that every Hollywood film about racing has sought to create. NASCAR must continue to strive to make the cars safer but not at the expense of great finishes. Saturday's result proves you can have both.

It would have been nice to hear Kyle's perspective on his final move. Hopefully, he will eventually get comfortable enough to speak his mind without putting himself in jeopardy. Until that happens, NASCAR fans will have to be happy with only half of the story.

Ralph Shaheen

Motor sports veteran, Ralph Shaheen did well in his first full week on TNT. While the circumstances are mysterious, he handled himself like a professional.

New Venture

Check out my new site The site will be the new home for "The Joe Castello Show". This new show will be different from my racing specific shows, covering all subject matter, including racing. It is available in 20-30 minute podcasts that are available for free on itunes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The King!

Congratulations to Richard Petty for making it back to victory lane! There is only one “King” and his team is winning again in NASCAR’s Cup Series.

The win is the first for Petty since 1999 with John Andretti (Martinsville, spring). These stories only happen, well, once a decade. I would have liked to hear the broadcast team make Petty more of the story. His name was mentioned a few times but not in a way that explained Petty’s struggles over the past decade. Richard Petty is NASCAR’s icon. He is our greatest driver and greatest representative and now he is winning again. This should have been the number one story for the final ten laps. Even a comparison of NASCAR, old and new, as NASCAR’s newest team owner, Tony Stewart tried to win himself. The double file restarts were great, but the human element is always the best story.

NASCAR is working to make changes in the sport to generate interest. But, missed opportunities like the Petty’s first win of the Century will continue to hold the sport back.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rock and Roll

I’ve been saying that Kyle Busch was a Rock Star for a while now. This week he proved it, or at least tried to. Kyle has had an awkward transition to stardom, with several bumps along the way. He has yet to define himself completely and is still forming his persona. Is he the anti-hero, black hat, bad guy “Rowdy” or the kid “Wild Thing”, who’s smarter than he should be? Neither, in this case. Frankly, I really don’t care which persona Kyle chooses for himself as long as he picks one and sticks with it.

Last weekend, Kyle decided he was going to go all “Rock and Roll” on us and smash a guitar in victory lane at Nashville. Too bad it was a one a kind “work of art” created by renowned NASCAR artist Sam Bass. Bass had literally hundreds of hours of work into the guitar only to have Kyle Van Busch destroy it. Weakly, by the way; it took several giant swings to dent the once beautiful, Gibson Les Paul. What was the reason given for the destruction? Kyle promised his guys that he would destroy it. Repeat. Kyle promised his crew that because they had done well, he would win the “one of a kind” trophy, smash it and give them all a piece. Does anybody see anything weird about that?

Kyle is on to something, though. He is tapping into some core human desires. First, everybody wants to be “Rock and Roll” and so we understand his desire to try (and fail) to be a rock star by smashing the guitar. And second, people love watching things get smashed. They like it so much, that smashing things makes you “Rock and Roll” and thus super cool. Guitars, amps, hotel rooms. Smashing stuff equals “Rock and Roll”. Kyle should just take things a little further.

If he’s truly “Rock and Roll” it can’t be a one race thing. Kyle’s got to go all out. Otherwise, he is just a phony, what some would call, a “pozer”. Busch is already a showman, bowing when he wins, but this new gimmick blows that one away. Carl Edwards has a back flip and now Kyle’s got…smashing the trophies.

The Dover monster, the Martinsville clock, those boots they give out in Texas, even possibly, The Sprint Cup, all smashed by Kyle Busch after huge wins. The public would be separated, for and against, establishment vs. anti-establishment. Kyle Busch would become the world’s most “well known” athlete if he was so “Rock and Roll” that he smashed every trophy he won. Busch victories would become the lead on Sports Center. NASCAR would grow and ratings would go up. Hippies would certainly view his actions as a symbol to the Earth that Kyle was about more than just trophies.

Behind The Music

Even the best, most extreme gimmicks are just that, gimmicks. Eventually, the smashing of the trophies would get old. Bands that seemed “Rock and Roll” in their prime look more like spandex and hairspray now, but if he wants, Kyle “Rock and Roll” Busch can still make it work for him as he gets older. He will just have to adapt his act. Think “Gallagher of NASCAR” with his SLEDGE-O-MATIC.

Hopefully, “Rock and Roll” would not make the same decision if he could go back to the moment where he decided to smash the trophy guitar, even if it was last year.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Penske Saturn?!

Today’s news that Roger Penske has entered into an agreement with General Motors to purchase the Saturn brand has got me thinking about the possibilities. Saturn is a brand that makes very good cars, quality wise. What they lack is an image that people can recognize. To describe the Saturn brand is actually difficult. Is it quality? Is it safety? Who knows?

What we do know, is that “The Captain” believes in racing as a marketing tool. Perhaps the two could be merged to give a soulless quality automobile like Saturn the passionate backing of racing fans in NASCAR or Indy Car? Indy Car might be pure fantasy due to the research and development necessary to compete on the engine side of things, especially with a new engine spec coming soon. I’m not sure even Roger’s pockets are that deep. But in NASCAR, there is something to think about.

The excitement generated by a new American manufacturer that is owned by a racing legend would be a great story by itself. A Saturn win in NASCAR could be the first American triumph in this new, leaner, meaner, post recession world. Patriotic NASCAR fans would see the entry as an investment in the future of our country, NASCAR and auto racing in general.

There are some complications. The economy is still on the rocks and most people don’t have jobs, cash or available credit to buy cars, yet. (Otherwise I’d be buying a Pontiac G-8 or a Chevy Camaro) Also, the engine could be an issue. Since Saturn is a former GM product, but no longer, a deal would have to be worked out to allow the Penske Saturn’s to run the GM Corporate engine. This might require some twisting of the rules, something NASCAR has proven willing to do in the past if it will ultimately help the sport. Since we’re just considering the possibilities, I’d love to see Kurt Busch driving the Penske Saturn at Daytona in 2011. An entry in NASCAR could help the manufacturer, NASCAR and our country. That sounds like everybody wins to me. Of course, it’s not that easy. Maybe, Penske wants to market Saturn to a different demographic or move in a different direction all together. Until we know for sure, I can’t help but think about the positive stories attached to this optimistic move. If there has been a sign that the future is bright, Penske’s investment in this car company is it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Walking Away From Popularity

There has been a lot of talk about the popularity of NASCAR and possible reasons for its recent drop. During Saturday’s Nationwide race we got to see a prime example of what I believe is one contributing factor to the sport’s diminished popularity.

With two laps to go, Kyle Busch led the race with teammate Joey Logano running second. Kyle had led the most laps during the race with the two drivers dominating the day and the race coming down to this final restart. On the restart, Logano got into the rear end of his teammate and sent Kyle up the track, Logano was passed by Brad Keselowski who went on to victory. Replays following the race left question whether or not Logano hit Busch or Busch had a flat right front tire. Here’s where Kyle, NASCAR and it's coverage failed in their responsibility to tell the story for the viewer.

Joey Logano was interviewed after the race, nearly in tears (He is just a kid so I’m giving him a break, but there was no need for tears). Logano took responsibility for hitting Kyle Busch. He apologized and said he didn’t know what happened to Kyle, but Kyle didn’t get a good restart. Why didn’t Kyle get a good restart? That is now the key question. Every viewer, every old school fan, every new fan who was watching a race for the first time was wondering what Kyle Busch would have to say? This was the kind of moment that makes sport, racing in particular, exciting. We were all on the edge of our seats. Was it a flat tire or did Logano screw up and knock his teammate out of the way? Were Logano’s tears justified or was the young 19 year old crying over nothing? Was Kyle going to blast the kid or clear him of wrong doing, or neither? So many questions were about to be answered, thus completing a dramatic broadcast of NASCAR on ESPN. One person had the answers to all these questions, Kyle Busch. Here we go!

Here’s is where the wheels came off. Kyle Busch was not interested in talking and he walked away. This is an issue that has valid points to be made on each side of the argument. Sure, Kyle was disappointed, he just lost. But what Kyle has to realize is that racing is a show and at that moment he was the key to the biggest story in the show. He has to take the time to tell someone his side of the story. Just walking away might make him feel better at that moment, but what about every viewer who was watching? Kyle should know he has a responsibility to complete the story of the race. Someone has got to tell him that. Remember, millions of fans and potential new fans are watching on the edge of their seats. He is the exciting conclusion and he is walking away. There he goes and with him the biggest, best story of the race. As he walks away, the play by play team on ESPN has a discussion about Kyle. Former Cup Champion Dale Jarrett added that Kyle was doing the right thing by not talking because he might say something he might regret.

That is a prime example of why this sport is regressing right now. Dale Jarrett thinks its better for Kyle to leave an entire fan base hanging on the most important moment of the race, than Kyle risk possibly saying something he might regret. So, not only are we making these drivers, Dale Jarrett included, heros by watching them but now we cannot even expect to get their story after they race. I’m not buying that. Jarrett was taking the easy; protect the driver’s image approach. That approach is killing the sport. It is Kyle’s responsibility to be able to communicate his position without embarrassing himself. If he can’t, it becomes a great story for the sport and will end up on Sports Center, always a good thing. If he can, then we all get to know what happened in the race, either way, he can’t just walk away.

If NASCAR wants to turn their slide in popularity around they need to realize they, the drivers and their broadcast partners are in the entertainment business. In this case, they completely blew the end of the story. In what other sport can the key player just walk away without comment? OK, other than Basketball? It’s a problem that is directly connected to the sport’s popularity and should be addressed by the NASCAR officials, drivers, fans and media. If drivers and television partners are allowed to just blow off the story and with it, the fans, the sport will be doomed to slide off the radar. If you can’t expect to find out why things happened, why bother watching?

Friday, May 29, 2009

For The Best

The highly publicized split between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief cousin Tony Eury Jr. has left many NASCAR fans with hard feelings. Some blame Tony Eury Jr. for Dale’s lack of success while others blame Dale Jr.’s driving for Tony Eury’s perceived failure. As in most cases, both groups are right and wrong. The blame game is pointless. The bottom line: it just didn’t work.

They certainly tried to make it work, but Rick Hendrick finally decided to pull the plug. I feel this move is for the best. While improvement was a possibility, the recent evidence pointed against it. Hendrick was not willing to sacrifice the entire season to see if the cousins could pull it together, rightfully, so. This is big time professional sport. Nobody is immune.

It’s easy to start feeling badly for the two cousins that were unable to win a championship together. That would have been a great story that we all would have loved to see, but it didn’t work out. If you think about it, though, they are still both in great shape. Now should be a time for positive thinking. Dale Jr. has an opportunity to start fresh. His new crew chief, Lance McGrew, seems to have a clear plan about what to do. Meanwhile, Tony Jr. has a solid job at Hendrick Motorsports. I can think of worse things. The family is still together, they just don’t work on the same car. On a personal level, Tony Eury now gets to help all the Hendrick teams win championships, including Dale Jr., and Dale Jr. can hopefully benefit from McGrew who is a Hendrick veteran.
The Earnhardt Nation should feel good about the future of the 88 team. When Dale Jr. moved to Hendrick he knew that Rick would do everything in his power to help him win a championship and that is exactly what he is doing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Problem With The Indy 500

The 2009 Indy 500 is drawing mixed reviews from series insiders and media types. I think this is an example of people who are making their living off the series, shooting it (and themselves) in the foot. While there could have been more passing for the lead (only six lead changes), every major racing series is faced with that same issue right now. NASCAR is reportedly considering changing their restart rules for that exact reason. This is a symptom of equal cars and is the direct result of rules that have been put in place to put everyone on equal footing. If everyone is running the same car and approximate engines then everyone is generally the same speed and passing is much more difficult. But does little passing for the lead equal a boring race? I say, “No.”

This is especially true when Indy Car’s biggest stars are involved, as they were on Sunday. Helio Castroneves faced hard time for tax evasion, a charge that he was acquitted of, putting him squarely in the national media spotlight for this year’s race. Helio responded with a sweep of the Month of May. He won everything including the pole, the pit crew competition and the race. Bore-ring! Apparently, America suddenly hates stories of redemption that involve highly popular personalities overcoming the possible depths of imprisonment, only to achieve the highest honors in their field through dominating victory, followed by a genuine emotional outburst. I guess it happens so often we’ve become jaded. The final outcome of Sunday’s race was one that any person could understand and feel connected to. Thus, it could never be considered boring.

Then, there is the Danica factor. The sports most exposed star, drives to the front and collects her best career finish, 3rd, in the biggest race on Earth. She didn’t do it through strategy or trickery, but skill. It’s obvious the “new” has worn off Danica. Now that everyone has seen her mostly naked body, all that is left is a race car driver and the results she will produce. Well, she just produced the best finish ever by a female in the Indy 500, resetting her own record of 4th in 2004! Sorry, Bore-ring! Call us when she wins. If that is the standard we are now living by, we might as well find something else to watch because only one person gets to win The Indy 500 each year. Imagine if a female athlete in any other sport finished third in that sport's most important event that had been traditionally dominated by men? What if Annika Sorenstam had finished 3rd at the Masters or U.S. Open or if Serena Williams had somehow made the Men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon? That story could not possibly be considered boring. And yet, following the greatest Indy 500 ever run by a female, some are simply not impressed.

These observation’s bring me to one conclusion, maybe it’s not the story that needs work, but those telling it. If Indy Car’s brightest stars, performing at the highest of levels in their biggest race can’t get the sports own media excited, the problem is not the sport or the number of passes for the lead, but the people covering it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

This weekend is the ultimate for racing fans. The Grand Prix of Monaco, The Indy 500 and The Coke 600 all in one marathon day of racing. It's a dream, really. Three completely different types of racing that last from early morning until late at night. Let's be honest, it takes a real freak to watch 16 hours of racing on the tube. The GP of Monaco starts at 7:30 AM on Speed and The Coke 600 will wrap up around 11 PM. I'll be there the whole time with my thoughts on those who have made this possible.

Many have sacrificed so that we can watch racing and this weekend is Memorial to them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Major Loss...

NASCAR lost one of its most independent voices this week. David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and Sirius Radio passed away due to a heart attack on Tuesday. This is a major blow to the NASCAR media community and the sport in general.
My experiences with David were limited, but the opportunities that I did have to speak with him were educational and eye opening.

He was a progressive thinker who was not afraid to challenge NASCAR at the highest levels. David Poole spoke his mind regardless of the potential negative result. That will be very difficult to replace in the echo chamber that is the NASCAR media center.

Many factors come into play for those that cover the sport. One of the strongest factors is simply survival. The desire to continue to work and interview the sport's top athletes has a negative effect on many who try to do the job. Many do not want to “rock the boat” so that they can continue to pursue their own careers. They can’t risk alienating drivers or NASCAR officials with harsh criticism because they might not get an interview the following week. David Poole was never worried about rocking the boat. He was never concerned about anything other than his views as they related to the sport. That will be difficult to replace. If NASCAR wants to continue evolving to the level of other major sports it needs more people like David Poole, not less. David will be missed.

Farewell Pontiac

This week we have learned that General Motors will discontinue the historic Pontiac brand. This news hurts me to the bone. I can proudly say, “I am a Pontiac guy” and I always will be. Make no mistake; Pontiac was GM’s affordable performance brand. Over the years, from “Fireball” Roberts to Rusty Wallace and John Force to Warren Johnson, Pontiac was a force in racing. I myself race a Pontiac. While the majority of the American car buying public identify themselves based on Ford vs. Chevy, there was always the select group of individuals that bought Pontiac.

The Pontiac brand separated itself on several fronts. To put it simply, Pontiac was always classier than it’s competition. What the Firebird was to the Camaro and the GMC is to the Chevy truck, Pontiac was to its competitors; a nicer, cooler car with a personality all its own. Sure, it was a little more expensive, but the separation from the masses was worth it.

Pontiac owners are a special breed of people who will have to choose among watered down selections from now on. I believe that GM is making a huge mistake getting rid of Pontiac. They were the third largest seller at the General and sold double the cars that Buick does. While Buick survives due to its popularity in China, the loss of Pontiac is a sacrifice at the alter of the economy and a shot over the bow of all performance vehicles.

Who to blame?

I have been trying to take this as well as possible, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get. General Motors was not in great shape a year ago, but they were not going bankrupt. Pontiac was moving to all rear-drive cars with high performance and attitude. The Solstice, the GXP and the G8 all proved to be exciting, well built cars for a good value. They looked cool and had personality. Now, the brand is going to be closed down for good.

So, who is to blame? First, we have to blame General Motors for the mismanagement of their own product and lack of profitability. We must blame them for falling behind in the 1980’s and losing an entire generation of young car buyers who now think Japanese brands are synonymous with quality and excitement. While that was twenty years ago, the failures of the 80’s are a major reason for GM’s troubles now. They lost the public relations war against the imports and now you would be hard pressed to find people younger than thirty that view Pontiac with excitement. Then again, I think anyone who thinks a Honda Civic is exciting has a mental problem.

Second, we must blame those who put the final nail in the coffin, the stewards of our nation’s economy the past several years. While I am not an economist, I do know that our economy was mismanaged at the highest levels. The recession and inability to get credit, not lack of interest, is what finally killed Pontiac. Those responsible for our countries economic disaster are also to blame for the loss of Pontiac. They will be forever linked as far as I’m concerned.

Each Pontiac commercial I see is a reminder of what we are losing and who is to blame. I, unfortunately, will now know what it was like to have been a “Studebaker” or “American Motors” guy. It is not something that I’m happy about but I will have to live with it. Fortunately, my family currently has ownership of four Pontiacs (78 Trans Am, 05 GTO, 08 Grand Prix and a 98 Firebird) that I will cherish until I can afford to purchase a 2010 G8. Regardless of what new vehicles are rolled out in the future I would always rather have the option of buying a Pontiac. This is a sad moment in automotive history.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Outrage is very en vogue these days. Everyone is outraged about something from the AIG million dollar bonuses paid by tax payers and the Octomom getting free everything for being a crazy person. I, too, am outraged. Following a great weekend of NHRA Drag Racing in Gainesville, Florida, we have learned that Budweiser will not be returning as sponsor of Kenny Bernstein’s Top Fuel Dragster team. I can’t say that I’m surprised but now that it has happened I’m, well, outraged. While outraged and disappointed, I’m not shocked. Industry experts have forecast cuts at Budweiser since rumors of a sale to Belgian beverage giant INBEV first began.

The story first broke on drag racing news site:

Months ago when it first surfaced that Anheuser-Busch was considering selling there were some minor discussions among the very patriotic racing crowd of whether or not this would be a good thing. I have consistently come down on the “no” side of this issue and now we have proof. Kenny Bernstein and Budweiser have been together longer than any other sponsor-team combination, eclipsing the Richard Petty/STP relationship two years ago. Bernstein’s team has massed 85 national event wins and six national championships during the thirty year run. One championship every five years is not too shabby, but apparently not good enough for INBEV.

As much as I’d like to sit here and try to eloquently use my writing skills to explain in detail why it is a huge mistake for BUD, I’d rather simply be frank. I grew up looking forward to having a Budweiser when I was of age. The ONLY reason I even know about Budweiser is Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King thanks to my early NHRA Drag Racing experiences. The first beer I ever drank was a Budweiser. So, as far as I’m concerned Budweiser would never have existed without Bernstein. To millions of NHRA Drag Racing fans like me, this is a fact of my beer drinking life.

Another fact: Budweiser Sucks. The only reason I ever drank it was because it was the first beer I ever knew about, but I stuck with it. Why? Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King and the company’s support of drag racing. It gives me an instant headache, but I bought it anyway. I didn’t even root for Kenny on the track, I rooted for Don the Snake, and yet, I bought Budweiser (and Miller, the Snake’s sponsor). I’m sure I’m not the only racing fan who feels this way. I must say, however, that Bud light is drinkable. However, I cannot see myself ordering a Budweiser ever again, now that INBEV has dropped one of drag racing’s biggest stars, unnecessarily, during a tough economy. Talk about not taking care of the people who have taken care of you. The value of their sponsorship was worth ten times what they were paying, having deeply impacted millions of drag racing fans like me. The fact that they are pulling out is grossly disrespectful to the NHRA fan base that have supported them through the series.

The decision has already been made and Bud is not returning in 2010. INBEV is simply interested in cost cutting and gutting an American institution. Hopefully, some other company will take advantage of the next generation of NHRA fans to grow up watching the Bernstein family, now with son Brandon behind the wheel. In the mean time, I can only voice my protest by avoiding any beer supplied by INBEV. Perhaps you’ll join me in not having a beer.

A list of INBEV brands is at the following link:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 30th year

This weekend marks a 30th Anniversary for me. The idea that I have been able to attend anything including Christmas and my birthday every year since 1980 is both shocking and something I’m proud of. In 1980, my father who is the source of my racing gene, decided that my family would attend the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainsville, Florida. The Gatornationals are the NHRA’s traditional East coast opener with frost bitten racers from the entire country packing the track. At just 7 years of age, I had no idea what I was about to be exposed to. I can still remember walking through the staging lanes for the first time. Pro Stock was in the lanes. I remember seeing Bill “Grumpy” Jenkin’s “Gumpy’s Toy” Camaro parked next to “Dyno” Don Nicholson and Bob Glidden. I found myself entering the world of professional drag racing for the first time. That experience was very influential to me as I have made racing a large part of my life and career.

Near Misses

You don’t string together 30 years without a few near misses along the way. Just a few years into the streak, my father had purchased some Center Line wheels for our car, the 1978 Trans Am that later became my race car. When we put our luggage into the trunk of the car, the new, wider wheels and tires rubbed the inside of the quarter panel. So, with a full trunk, we were off to a local business (Cole Muffler) to purchase some air shocks for the rear of the car. Long story, made short, within two hours the car was on FIRE! This, however, was not a deterrent. We made it to the race with some blankets covering the charred back seat. In fact, that weekend I learned to love the smell of fire extinguisher.

Over the years we have endured massive traffic, medical issues and weather. In 1986, the event was rained out. We decided to return to Gainsville the following week and were rewarded by seeing an underdog driver from New Jersey, Don Campanello win in Pro Stock. He even invited us to stand in his winner’s circle photo. Don Garlits’, 272 MPH historic run in Swamp Rat XXX was icing on the cake. Ed McCulloch won in Funny Car.

History in the making

There have been many historic runs over the years. So many, that National Dragster editor, Phil Burgess, has created a list found at Easy ones include the first 260 (Joe Amato), 270 (Don Garlits) and 300 MPH (Kenny Bernstein) runs in Top Fuel.

First Time

There is nothing better than going to an NHRA National event with first time fans. Seeing people experience the most extreme of motor sports in person for the first time is like returning to my own first experience in 1980. I have invited many of my friends during this 30 year streak and each has walked away a fan. (Except for one, my Dad’s friend, who thought it was too loud.) Much has changed over the years, the pit area, the tower and the staging lanes have all evolved. One thing that hasn’t changed is the reaction from people the first time they witness a nitro engine start in the pit area. They laugh while they cry from the nitro fuel. There is nothing in the world of motor sport that can compare to the “live” race day product of the NHRA and The Gatornationals is one of best examples of it. As my streak continues into its 3rd decade, I hope that new fans will begin their own. See you in Gainsville.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Fire!

Matt Kenseth is on Fire! It just goes to show how the Cup series can works in cycles. After a tough year in 2008, Matt Kenseth has started 2009 in style holding off Jeff Gordon for the win at Auto Club Speedway. The win made it two for two for rookie crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. According to the well-known George Costanza rule, he should retire (“I’m outta here”). While Blickensderfer has no actual plans to retire with a perfect win percentage in the Cup series, his early success shows how important good chemistry can be. Is Matt Kenseth driving any harder in 09? I doubt it. This success is the product of solid off season work at Roush racing; add a little good racing luck and you’ve got yourself two in row. With the win, Kenseth becomes one of five drivers to win the first two races of the season. Kenseth’s resume now boasts a championship, a Daytona 500 win, the 2000 Rookie of the Year and an obscure statistic placing him with NASCAR’s elite, plus, one Go-Karting loss to a South Florida media personality. Sorry, Matt, but I’m going to ride this wave, forever.

Rivalry? What Rivalry?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another tough day. This time it was due to a bad batch of valve train parts. It’s a wonder that this doesn’t happen more often. Regardless, Dale Jr. is now in a hole to start the most important season of his career. Currently 39th in points, one more bad finish and the top 35 talk will start. Dale Jr. did make some news with his brutally honest interview with Fox television’s Darrell Waltrip. Earnhardt acknowledged that he is misunderstood by many of the younger drivers out there. He even went on to say, “he couldn’t care less about 20% of the people that were caught in the big wreck at Daytona”. Who could he be talking about? Is this the resurfacing of the official Kyle Busch vs. Dale Jr. rivalry? Too bad the analysis we got following the interview was more about the fact that Dale Jr. “Is not afraid to be honest” and “Is not afraid to speak his mind” instead of talking about Earnhardt’s actual comments. In my opinion, Earnhardt’s comments should be taken as: “I don’t care that Kyle Busch was taken out in the wreck because he doesn’t know or respect me anyway.” Now that’s rivalry talk. Too bad the guys at Fox left it hanging in the wind.

It’s a sad day.

A racing icon is closing its doors. After 56 years Crane Cams is going out of business.

Crane made the first camshaft I ever installed. I can’t imagine motor sports without them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Daytona in the Rearview...

Each year, I look forward to the Daytona 500 with great anticipation. This year was no different. In fact, this year may have been more anticipated than some in the past because of issues with the economy. The result of the race, Matt Kenseth winning in a rain shortened event, was less than desirable when considering that NASCAR needed to start the season off with a bang. A bang, it was not. I do, however give all credit to Matt Kenseth for his success. Matt Kenseth is the 2009 Daytona 500 winner. There! I’ve said it. He will go into the history books and will forever be recognized as a driver who won the 500. Every race is different and this one happened to end early due to rain. I know some people would have liked NASCAR to wait and see if they could have dried the track but that is debatable. Matt is a deserving driver who made the right moves to get in position to win at the right time. Plus, now I can say that I’ve beaten the 2009 Daytona 500 winner, head to head, in a go kart race. No. I will not let that go.

Who to Blame

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an eventful day. He missed his pit box, twice and was involved in the cause of the BIG ONE. It is interesting to hear what fans think about the Earnhardt/Vickers incident. I call it a racing deal under the current rules. Earnhardt had a huge run on Vickers and was able to get under him (a little). Vickers then blocked him into the infield grass. Is Earnhardt wrong for trying to pass? Is Vickers wrong for blocking? Earnhardt did lose control, momentarily, and hit the back of Vickers car, thus he will take most of the responsibility for this incident. I don’t believe that he did it on purpose, though. He was WFO and had a great run when he was blocked heavily. That is a tough situation and he lost it. Brian Vickers obviously felt differently about it, but how could he really know?

Yellow Lines

The real problem is, once again, with the yellow line rule. Drivers know that they can use the line to protect their position and as long as they get there first. They are, then, justified by the rules. That is why Vickers cranked the wheel so hard when he blocked Earnhardt. Todd Bodine was in a similar situation in the truck race. On Bodine’s first incident, he was penalized for going below the yellow line, the second time he wrecked someone. That seems to be the only choice for the trailing driver, put it on the yellow line and hold it WFO. If another driver tries to block you and wrecks himself and the whole field, that is his problem. Regan Smith would have benefited from making that choice at Talladega. Todd Bodine won his race.

California is this weekend, the true start of 2009. I’m setting the over/under on attendance at 60,000 people (I’d like your guess in the comment section). Can Kenseth make it two in a row? If so, my resume will keep getting better.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Chips Are Down...

During the build up to this year’s Daytona 500, I’ve sensed that something is different about 2009. I wonder if I’m the only one that feels it. There is an air of importance surrounding this NASCAR season that I haven’t felt before. Sure, there have been important years. 1998 was the 50th year of NASCAR; they had a huge hype machine set up with a huge media campaign. If 1998 had been boring or uneventful it would have reflected badly on the sport. Perhaps NASCAR wouldn’t have grown into what they are today. 1998 turned out to be a great year. Dale Earnhardt won his first and only Daytona 500 to start the season and Jeff Gordon won 13 races to tie a modern era record. The sports top two stars put on a show for the ages when the chips were down. The chips are down again, but this time things are different.

2009 may turn out to be the most important year in NASCAR history. With our country in deep recession and unemployment skyrocketing, people have less money to spend on entertainment. The entertainment they are paying for had better be good. If NASCAR has another ordinary year, it risks its own survival. The Bud Shootout was a good start to the season. It was an action packed race that set records for leaders (14), lead changes (28) and cautions (8). The cars appeared to be very difficult to drive. Good. If the American people are going to pay to see people drive as entertainment, the drivers had better earn their money. There was no doubt about that Saturday night. The cars were all over the place and the race was fun to watch. Kevin Harvick was victorious in a race that was very enjoyable.

Let’s hope NASCAR can keep the ball rolling and its big stars perform in a big way. If the sport can put forth a full season of great entertainment, the American people will be thankful and the sport’s recent rocky history will be erased.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

And so it begins...

With the Super Bowl in the books, racing fans are ready to step up. The Bud Shootout is the first race of the NASCAR season while the NHRA gets started in Pomona, CA. There are many questions that still need to be answered. We have teams and drivers that are looking turn a fresh page for a new season.

Richard Petty Motorsports - I was the first one to say, “Don’t do it!” when it came to the Petty merger with GEM. At the time, and currently, I believe the jury is still out on mergers with non-racing companies. Once mergers happen, it’s tough to go back. That having been said, I believe we will see The King back in victory lane in 2009. That alone, would make the merger a positive move for NASCAR. Their driver line-up is solid with Kasey Kahne clearly the star. Elliott Sadler, a fan favorite, has underperformed for years but could change that by helping The King win again. A.J. Allmendinger was a great pick up after allowing Red Bull to cover his "break in" expenses, making him a worth while value. Reed Sorenson is the question mark on the team. Reed will drive the legendary 43 vacated by Bobby Labonte. Reed is a young driver with plenty of upside, but he has yet to live up to his pre-Cup career hype. The good news for everyone involved is that Reed is so young; he still has plenty of time to rise to the occasion.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing - Another merger for 2009. This will be very interesting to follow as two racing icons team up. DEI lacked leadership and direction and Chip Ganassi will fill that role. Chip is a true racer whose NASCAR career hasn’t gone the way many expected. Now that they will be running Chevys, we’ll get some answers. If Juan Montoya is going to break out and become weekly threat, it should happen this year. Martin Truex Jr. is the veteran on the team and is looking rebound from a tough 2008 season. Martin belongs at the Cup level and should challenge for the chase. Young driver, Aric Almirola appears to have the talent make some noise at the Cup series level. And finally, John Andretti has emerged as a fourth driver for EGR with a technical alliance in place with Front Row Motorsports. John has been tenacious the past several years trying to get back to the up series in a quality ride. The Front Row team ran well at times on their own, with EGR technology, Andretti could surprise some people.

The NHRA is back in action this weekend in Pomona, CA. The title sponsor is now Full Throttle making it the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. I’m not sure any sponsorship has sounded better. Coming off the most dominating season ever, Tony Schumacher and Alan Johnson are now on different teams with Johnson starting his own Al-Anabi Racing team. This reminds me of when Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham split up. Regardless of which team runs better in this first year apart both men have earned their spot in history already.

On another note,

Michael Phelps is an American Hero having represented our country in the Olympics by winning 8 Gold medals in communist China. He did this at a critical time in our history. I’m my mind the youthful indiscretion that has surfaced over the past few days doesn’t diminish him at all. He is still an American hero and should be treated that way. And yet, now we are hearing that he may be prosecuted for appearing in a picture. That would be insane! I hope America supports Michael Phelps. I do.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Back from Hiatus!

It has been a while since I’ve put my thoughts to this blog. I am happy to hear that many people out there have been following and even awaiting my next entry.
A lot has happened in the past few weeks. Let’s review.

We saw the turn of the New Year, which is always one of my favorite holidays. 2008 was a tough year in many ways but I would have to rate it as another good one. We watched the Florida Gators become National Champions, again. I root for the University of Miami, in case you’re curious, so that is just factual information. We, also, were faced with our first January without testing at Daytona. I can honestly say I missed it. I missed hearing the sound of the cars and catching up with the drivers. Testing at Daytona is the first signal that the season is right around the corner. That having been said, I got over it pretty quickly. The 2009 Daytona 500 is going to be a “run what you brung” affair that I’m looking forward to seeing.

We also learned of a true hero, Chesley B 'Sully' Sullenberg III. As the pilot of U.S. Airways flight 1542, he literally saved the lives of over a hundred people. I think it’s time we reserve the word “hero” for the people that truly deserve it. After the successful ditching into the Hudson River, Sully said, “that he was just doing his job.” Not only is he a hero, but he is humble too.

On Tuesday, January 20th we saw the swearing in (twice) of our new President, Barack Obama. I know that some people are not sure about him and others flat out, don’t like him. That is their right to do so. I, on the other hand, feel very good about the direction of the country. I felt very proud to be an American while watching the inauguration. In fact, I found myself getting emotional at times. The fact that we are able to exchange power in a peaceful way tells you a lot about our system of government. 2 million people filled Washington, DC and braved the cold for a historic day that I will always remember even though I was warm and on the couch.

Finally, we learned that General Motors is no longer the top automaker in the world. It was surpassed by Toyota who is now number one. The two giants of industry have been battling for the top spot for the past several years with GM coming out on top. This year, it went the other way. While the fact is just another example of how our country’s economy is in trouble, I see it as an opportunity. If our new President can get things turned around in a couple of years, the day GM retakes the number one spot will be one we can all be proud of.