Archive | June, 2012

Race Recap: Quicken Loans 400

18 Jun

The (winless) streak is over! The (winless) streak is over!!!

(Can we stop talking about Dale Jr. now?)

It took 4 years and 2 days, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally returned to victory lane after a winless streak of 143 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (but really, who was counting?).

The media talked about him every week when he lost, and they won’t stop talking about him now that he’s won. My friend told me that Jr. even made Sportscenter today (with video highlights!), so you know this was a big deal…

Some other notes on this weekend’s race:

  • Is it just me, or is Matt Kenseth flying under the radar each week? The announcers never seem to talk about him, yet he now leads the points standings. The dude has eight top-5s and 11 top-10s in 15 races. Wow.
  • Denny Hamlin’s car caught fire, which led him to tweet this after the race:
  • For those keeping score at home, Jeff Gordon remains the only Team Hendrick driver without a win this season (but it’s coming…).

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By the way, I’ve determined that Jr. won the race solely because of his car’s paint job, which was an advertisement for the upcoming Batman blockbuster, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Here is a pic of the hood:

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Finally, here’s the tidbit of NASCAR knowledge I picked up this week:

  • Dale Jr’s girlfriend is pretty pretty. Not only that, but she stuck with him during this unending winless streak? He better put a ring on that ASAP.

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If you’re already looking ahead, the Sprint Cup Series will move to Sonoma, California next weekend for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

(You would think Toyota has enough money to sponsor their own race, no? I guess not…).

Race Preview: Quicken Loans 400

16 Jun

All the talk in practice on Friday was about blistering tires at the newly repaved and blistering fast Michigan International Speedway.

This prompted NASCAR and Goodyear to bring in harder left-side tires for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400. The decision was made on Friday night, but the tires didn’t make it to Michigan until Saturday afternoon, after qualifying was already over.

Teams had an extra practice session on Saturday night during which they were able to test out the new left-side tires, and drivers have since taken to Twitter to share their opinions about them:

As you can see, the consensus seems to fall somewhere between confusion and uncertainty. (Ignore Jimmie’s tweet about excitement – that’s a PR tweet).

I guess we’ll find out on Sunday which team was able to, in such a short window, make the adjustments needed to win.

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The Quicken Loans 400 is race #15 (out of 36) on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Race coverage on Sunday starts at 12:00 PM EDT on TNT. (The race itself starts at 1:16 PM EDT).

Below the logo, find everything you need to prepare for Sunday’s race.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Quicken Loans 400

  • Location: Brooklyn, Michigan
  • Track name: Michigan International Speedway
  • Track shape: D-oval
  • Banking: 18° turns, 12° frontstretch, 5° backstretch
  • Lap length: 2.0 miles
  • Race distance: 200 laps / 400 miles

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As always, I’ll be tweeting my comments and questions about NASCAR during the race from my Twitter account: @NASCARneophyte. If you can answer my questions, please do. During the race, be sure to use hashtag: #QL400.

Enjoy the race everyone.

Race Recap: Pocono 400 Presented by NASCAR

11 Jun

During NASCAR qualifying, the driver who records the fastest speed on the track wins the “pole” position for that race (which means they start in first place).

Yesterday, at the Pocono 400 (Presented by NASCAR), Joey Logano became the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) driver to win from the pole this season.  It was the first time in 31 NSCS races that the winner won from the pole.

Logano sneaked past “veteran” driver Mark Martin on Lap 157 of 160 and then held on for the final three laps to take the checkered flag.

Here is the Eagle Scout trophy he won:

Yesterday’s race was on TNT, which will televise the next five NSCS races as well.  The only carry-over from the NASCAR on FOX telecast was Larry McReynolds, a.k.a. “Larry Mac.”

Overall, the commentators weren’t too bad, and I was glad not to see/hear Mike Joy.  As I’ve said before, that guy creeps me out for some reason…

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I picked up some new NASCAR knowledge this week thanks to the announcers on TNT during the race.  Here’s a summary:

1. Mark Martin is a “veteran” driver.  Well, actually I already knew that, but I’m glad the announcers reminded me multiple times at the end of the race, as Logano battled him for the lead…

2. Pocono is famous for rain delays/rain-shortened races(?).

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Some questions also came up yesterday as I was watching.  If you can answer them, help me out in the comments section below or tweet @NASCARneophyte.

1. Some guy named “Vanilla Ice” was walking around the infield and tweeting from the race.  Apparently he is famous…  Who is he?

2. During one of the caution laps with <20 laps in the race, Brad Keselowski flew by the race leader and pace car and, I assume, drove all the way around the track to the back of the pack.  Was that a “wave around”?

3. Is the “wave around” equivalent to the “lucky dog”?  (“Lucky dog” = the first driver one lap down at a caution gets to rejoin the lead lap).

4. The announcers kept saying that Logano is in a contract year.  NASCAR fans: Any idea which team he may be heading to in the off-season?

5. There were a ton of speeding penalties on pit road yesterday.  Was that because the track was newly-paved, and fast?

6. What does the phrase “catbird seat” mean?  (This came up during the Pocono “Race Rewind“).

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If you’re already looking ahead, the Sprint Cup Series will move to Michigan next Sunday for the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Apparently, speeds on the straightaways will hit 215 mph, which will make it the quickest track we’ve seen all season.

In other words, it’s going to be “BAD FAST.”

Race Preview: Pocono 400 Presented By NASCAR

9 Jun

I’ve been watching NASCAR now for about four months, and I must say that one of the coolest things about this sport is that the tracks vary a lot from week to week in terms of size and shape.

From “The Paperclip” to “The Monster Mile,” NASCAR tracks have some interesting nicknames relating to their design.

This week’s track (Pocono Raceway) has an intriguing nickname as well: “The Tricky Triangle.” (Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe this is the first scalene triangle – as opposed to an isosceles triangle – on the Sprint Cup Series schedule).

The Tricky Triangle??? I’m hooked already!

The Pocono 400 is race #14 (out of 36) on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Race coverage on Sunday starts at 12:00 PM EDT on TNT. (The race itself starts at 1:18 PM EDT).

Below the track layout, find everything you need to prepare for Sunday’s race.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Pocono 400 Presented by NASCAR

  • Location: Long Pond, PA
  • Track name: Pocono Raceway
  • Track shape: Tri-oval
  • Banking: 14° turn 1, 8° turn 2, 6° turn 3, 2° straights
  • Lap length: 2.5 miles
  • Race distance: 160 laps / 400 miles

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As always, I’ll be tweeting my comments and questions about NASCAR during the race from my Twitter account: @NASCARneophyte. If you can answer my questions, please do.

Enjoy the race everyone.

The Coolest NASCAR-Related Video I’ve Seen… Today

9 Jun

This is awesome.  Thank god that professional sports (including NASCAR) have cameras covering every angle of the field/track/playing surface so we can re-live strange moments like these forever:

 

My favorite part was the slow-mo near the end.  Priceless.

(If nothing else, I now can say I’ve heard of Stephen Leicht).

The Most Popular* Driver In NASCAR Is…

9 Jun

* Admittedly, Twitter isn’t the be-all, end-all of popularity contests, but it’s a pretty good indication of how popular (or influential) an athlete or celebrity is, based on their number of followers.

With that caveat in mind, here is the list of the Top 30 Most-Followed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers on Twitter:

Car # Driver Followers Twitter Handle
10 Danica Patrick 601,119 @DanicaPatrick
42 Juan Montoya 553,457 @jpmontoya
2 Brad Keselowski 267,074 @keselowski
48 Jimmie Johnson 237,856 @JimmieJohnson
29 Kevin Harvick 219,981 @KevinHarvick
24 Jeff Gordon 212,654 @JeffGordonWeb
5 Kasey Kahne 186,723 @kaseykahne
18 Kyle Busch 186,099 @KyleBusch
55 Michael Waltrip 162,150 @mw55
11 Denny Hamlin 148,580 @dennyhamlin
21 Trevor Bayne 126,872 @Tbayne21
88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 126,829 @DaleJr
109 Kenny Wallace 105,201 @Kenny_Wallace
33 Elliott Sadler 100,445 @Elliott_Sadler
17 Matt Kenseth 99,834 @mattkenseth
39 Ryan Newman 99,437 @RyanNewman39
14 Tony Stewart 99,220 @tonystewart
1 Jamie McMurray 96,965 @jamiemcmurray
56 Martin Truex Jr. 83,026 @MartinTruexJr56
55 Mark Martin 79,204 @55MarkMartin
16 Greg Biffle 77,833 @gbiffle
20 Joey Logano 77,366 @joeylogano
47 Bobby Labonte 63,573 @Bobby_Labonte
22 AJ Allmendinger 62,317 @AJDinger
55 Brian Vickers 57,647 @BrianLVickers
31 Jeff Burton 54,211 @RCR31JeffBurton
7 Robby Gordon 49,377 @RobbyGordon
34 David Ragan 43,353 @DavidRagan
78 Regan Smith 41,667 @Regan_Smith_
33 Hermie Sadler 40,646 @HermieSadler
Notes: Number of followers recorded ~ 12:00 EDT on 6/9/12… List of drivers taken from http://www.nascar.com/drivers/list/cup/dps/ (“Driver Table” tab)… Not all Twitter handles listed above have been “verified” by Twitter…

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Let’s delve into these numbers a little bit.

Danica Patrick leads the list, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, considering she recently made the cover of ESPN Magazine’s Women in Sports issue.  She’s in those pesky Go Daddy commercials on TV, and has posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Collection (twice).  Danica Patrick is not a driver, she’s a brand.  If it comes as a shock that she has more followers than any other NASCAR driver, you probably live under a rock.

Next is Juan Pablo Montoya.  He hasn’t had a great deal of success in the Sprint Cup Series so far (and is currently 20th in the standings), so I’m assuming his popularity is based on the fact that he used to drive in Formula One and had some success there.  He probably gets a boost in followers due to the fact that he’s Colombian and bi-lingual (he frequently tweets in Spanish).  As an sports figure with global appeal, this isn’t a huge surprise either.

Third on the list is Brad Keselowski.  Keselowski certainly got a boost in followers when he tweeted this at the Daytona 500 in February:

During the two-hour red flag, with the field stopped dead on the track, Keselowski gained 100,000 followers (going from 85,000 to 185,000).  Due to his strong performances this year, and frequent interactions with fans on Twitter, Keselowski now has more followers than five-time Cup series champion, Jimmie Johnson.

Considering his high level of success in NASCAR (and his overall likeability), I would have expected Jimmie Johnson to have more than ~237,000 followers (by comparison, Lebron James has over 4.7 million followers).  Johnson is a member of Team Hendrick (which has been called the “New York Yankees of NASCAR”) and is a lock for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Maybe the (comparatively) low follower count for Johnson is an indication of the total number of NASCAR fans on Twitter.

Kevin Harvick rounds out the Top 5, which surprised me only because I expected four-time Cup series champion Jeff Gordon to be closer to the top of this list, (although Harvick only has 7,000 more followers than Gordon).

Some final comments:

The @DaleJr Twitter account has not sent a single tweet, yet it is the 12th most-followed driver account in NASCAR.  Can you imagine if he actually tweeted from the account?  Ditto for the @tonystewart account, which has sent just one tweet (a PR one), yet has almost 100,000 followers.

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I think I’ll revisit this list at the end of the season and see which drivers have gained or lost the most followers since this point in the season.  It will be interesting to see whether winning races gives drivers a boost in followers from week to week.

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Race Recap: FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks

4 Jun

Honestly, is there anyone left out there who thinks a driver other than Jimmie Johnson is winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year? The guy has been on an absolute tear of late, winning (no, dominating) two out of the last three races, and three out of four if you include the Sprint All-Star Race.

There was some early excitement during yesterday’s FedEx 400, with a 12-car wreck on Lap 9 bringing the field to a halt with a red-flag. When the race re-started (after a break of 19 minutes, 54 seconds), Johnson went to work. By the end of the day, he had led a total of 289 laps (out of 400) at the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware.

Sporting a light blue paint-job on his car for the upcoming Madagascar 3 movie, Johnson wore a multicolored wig before the race, and also afterwards in victory lane:

As the drivers and announcers on FOX keep telling me, NASCAR is truly a “team sport,” and Johnson’s team certainly seems to be firing on all cylinders right now (pun intended).

Johnson’s early-season rescinded penalties and Team Hendrick‘s drought now feel like ancient history.

Watch out, everyone else…

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As always, I picked up some new NASCAR knowledge this week thanks to Twitter. Here’s a summary:

  • No teams can work on their cars during a red-flag stop, however, they can pull out the tools and materials needed to fix the damaged car:
  • NASCAR cars generate 2200-2400 lbs of downforce. While I have no idea what that means, it’s good to know, I guess.

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As always, some questions came up yesterday as I was watching. If you can answer them, help me out in the comments section below or tweet @NASCARneophyte.

1. What came first, the “Monster Mile” name, or the Monster Mile statue outside the track? What about the monster trophy?

2. What are the chances Jimmie Johnson gave up the lead on purpose mid-race so that his teammate Jeff Gordon could earn the bonus point in the standings for leading a lap?

3. Is Dover International Raceway the only one with a bridge across it? (That was awesome).

4. Is the monster trophy the best trophy in NASCAR?

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If you’re already looking ahead, the Sprint Cup Series will move to Pennsylvania next weekend for the Pocono 400 in Long Pond, PA.