Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here

The last three years have seen three major retirements in the sport. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and now Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This leaves to question where our sport is going from here.

Of course there is no shortage of popular young talent, but is there enough to carry the fan base?

I think the best bet lies in the hands of Chase Elliot. The second generation driver has a lot of similarities to a young Earnhardt Jr. He's likeable, has talent, and has a big name father.

Sure his last name isn't Earnhardt, but I'm sure Elliott will do.

The driver needs to pick up his production if he wants the impact that Jr had. He's currently second in points, but is that enough?

NASCAR popularity is built on winning. Elliot, and quite frankly, NASCAR, needs the driver to find victory lane and soon.

If Elliot manages to win one or more this year just wait for his popularity to sky rocket even higher.

Until then, NASCAR will have to make the most of Jr's final season. Attendance will be up for the rest of the year as fans try to get their last chance at seeing him.

Next year attendance and TV will be down. A sport doesn't lose its most popular figure and not see a hit in ratings.

In the mean time, I'm looking at Elliot to take that responsibility. He has the name, the skill, and the sponsors. The questions is, can he get it done?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dale Jr Hanging It Up

2017 will be Dale Earnhardt Jr's last.

The 14 time most popular driver announced Tuesday that he will hang up his helmet at the end of the season.

Not a big surprise considering his previous year.

The big question is where the sport will go from here. With three huge names retiring in three straight seasons, the sport could be in trouble of losing some fans.

No matter the impact after he's gone, the impact Jr had while he was racing is unparalleled.

Jr was loved by many around the sport. He held fans after his father's death and shouldered the load of NASCAR for 18 seasons.

He will be missed.

Rain Rain Go Away

This weekend was the second Bristol race in a row to get moved back a day.

Considering how last season seemed to be a washout every weekend, this year has been relatively dry. It still sucks to have a Sunday race pushed back to a Monday.

It's really noticeable in the stands when there's more empty bleachers than fans. Especially when the racing was as good as it was Monday afternoon.

A big shout out to Bristol track officials for the way they've changed the racing surface. Besides for superspeedways, this may be the best two line track on the circuit now.

Even better, the track changed. Kyle Larson looked unbeatable for the first half of the race, but then the rubber came in

His car began to push and for the rest of the race there wasn't a clear cut favorite.

The track change allowed guys like Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, and Ricky Stenhouse to really make late charges and turn their days into a good finish.

But in the end the best came out on top. Jimmie Johnson showed why he had 82 career wins. He just doesn't go away.

The seven time champ proved his worth yet again.

Bristol you didn't disappoint. Don't ever change.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Asphalt Is Terrible

Jimmie Johnson took home his first checkered flag of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. It was only a matter time before the 48 team would break through.

The biggest story from Texas would definitely be the repave. The speedway laid down new asphalt as well as reconfigured the profile of the mile and a half speedway.

The new surface proved to be a challenge for the drivers all weekend. Fridays practices were spent putting rubber down to try and make the surface able to handle multiple groves.

Saturday's Xfinity race was single file, follow the leader race that did not see the high line come in. The speedway then took all night Saturday to use the Texas Tire Monster and attempt to get the track more rubbered in.

A lot of drivers gave credit to the track for trying. The fact of the matter is that repaves suck. It takes time to get these things to work right. There's no tire fall off and the surface is far too slick for anyone to try and run outside.

It's disappointing that the next few years at this place will be relatively boring but it's the nature of the beast. Texas did not have a choice to keep their old surface, it was too much of a liability with rain.

The two different corner layouts have potential for awesome racing. I even noticed some drivers, particularly Dale Jr., trying out a line a little higher than the bottom late in the race.

The race played out about as expected. The man that has owned Texas ended up in victory lane. Johnson owns seven cowboy hats with several coming in the November race. Typical Chad Knaus, if a track is in the chase, the 48 team will learn to own it.

Toyota seemed to struggle again. The new bodies must be giving these guys trouble. The new nose design is playing with downforce and it's clear more work is needed for these guys to snag more wins at aero tracks.

The biggest story of 2017 outside of Kyle Larson, who would've won if he could've gotten by Logano a few laps sooner, is the resurgence of Ford. Penske has been dominant week in and week out. Blaney had the best car all day Sunday. SHR is competitive. If they can find a way to get rid of Danica, the would have 4 top 10 cars every week. Clint Bowyer is back to his old ways. He was around the top 5 all day Sunday and has been all season.

Long story short, despite the repave Johnson still owns Texas. Repaves still suck. Ford is still dominant.

Hopefully November brings a better race.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Larson Finally Breaks Through

Kyle Larson finally took home the checkered flag.

His start to the 2017 season has been remarkable. He came close to grabbing the Daytona 500 and has only followed that up with three 2nd place finishes and a victory. 

The Chip Ganassi stable seems to have things pretty figured out this season. Larson's teammate Jamie McMurray is performing consistently in the top 10. It seems the team is benefitting the most from the Stewart-Haas switch to Ford. 

The extra help from Chevy and the lowest downforce these drivers have dealt with since the Car of Tomorrow debuted, has played right into Larson's pocket. The former dirt ringer likes his cars sliding around the track a paper widths from the wall. 

There was never any doubt that Larson had talent. It became apparent in his second ever start in the Xfinity series when he took Kyle Busch to the line at Bristol. His two year and change career in the Cup series has been somewhat up and down. The team admitted they found something during their test at Pocono last summer. Since that test, Larson has been wheeling. 

His win last summer at Michigan seemed to take the monkey off of his back. If it hadn't been for some bad luck, untimely cautions, and some unwanted incidents, Larson would have much more than two career victories. 

This guy is going to take this season by storm. He has the car beneath him to match his driving skill. His combination of speed and aggressiveness is unique. Look out NASCAR, your newest star was born Sunday. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Far I've Come

Blogging Ain't Easy

These days blogging takes effort. Especially when your blog focuses on covering a sport that requires weekly updates. With so many blogs available today, the best ones get their ideas out quickly. It's also important to be entertaining. Grabbing the readers attention and keeping may be the most important part of this whole thing. Starting with a headline that captures them from the beginning, you have to be mindful of the reader the entire post. Blogging is also a growing world. It grows daily and almost everyone thinks they can write one. That makes it even more important to stick out.

Change is Good

In the beginning of my blog I felt it was going to be a simple news blog. Just simple updates from the world of racing. Instead, it evolved into much more of an opinion oriented blog. I enjoy throwing my opinion out there with updates of the sport. The best posts I've written are heavy in opinion. Although I still do some reporting, opinion has turned into my bread and butter.

Blogging and Me

Blogging is very important to my major. I am pro media and am focusing on sports writing and opinion. This blog helps me practice my writing for publishing. It also helps me with getting recognition covering this sport. For future employers it allows to see an archive of written pieces about racing. It may not have an affect on my career a long way down the road, but in those early job hunts it could play a huge part.

An Everyday Fan

Blogging for a sport I love has changed me. It's made me focus more on the daily news of racing. It's taken me from a Sunday only fan, to an everyday fan. I have to pay attention to every little detail of the sport. I can't miss an opportunity to post something, especially something newsworthy. I've begun paying attention to various racing leagues, as well. Although this blog focuses NASCAR, the entire racing world is entwined and this blog has helped me realize that.

Playing For Keeps

The most important lesson to me has to be how this can affect my career. This has given a platform to post in the genre I would most like to work in. Knowing that others have been hired because of their blogs has made me focus on making sure my work is professional. I make sure all of my posts are something that I would want perspective employers to look at. I think that is what has stood out to me the most. Also, the grammar lessons aren't half bad.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Blogging in Racing

            In the world of racing journalism, blogging has long played an important role. Arguably, more of a role than any other sport. The website began in the early days of blogging. They have broken many stories that beat other racing publications, even those bigger media outlets.
            Recently, more and more racing journalists have begun switching to their own media coverage on their blogs. Jeff Gluck has had a long career covering NASCAR for many different major publications. This year he decided to leave his post at the U.S.A Today and focus all of his coverage on his blog. The flexibility and time around his family were the reasons for his switch.
            More coverage is another advantage of this trend. The sport is so vast and there are so many levels, the big publications tend to ignore the lower series. With the blogging world becoming bigger in racing, all of the series get covered. It makes it easier to hear about and know the upcoming drivers who will become the future stars of the sport. Blogging is one of the greatest things in the coverage of racing.

            Blogging is important to the racing world and is vital to the coverage of the sport. This trend is not surprising as it has been around since the beginning of the internet. With the internet, racing coverage has become more in depth and has never been better than it is right now. That is all thanks to blogging.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Atlanta: Recap, Repave, and more

The Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday. The big talk around the garage was this being the last race on the old surface.

Shortly before the race, news broke that the track may consider holding off on the repaving. The wrong idea if you ask me.

While the old surfaces create multilane racing, tire fall off, and poor handling race cars, there is a point when the surface is too old.

Atlanta is too old. Strategy almost gets taken out of your hands. There isn't even an option, if you've raced more than 5 laps, you pit. No matter what. If you stay out, you'll find yourself a lap down with no chance to make it up.

Furthermore, these old surface tracks tend to have one car that dominates the entire race. For example, Kevin Harvick leading almost 300 laps of a 325 lap race. It simply allows one car to nail the setup and that's all she wrote.

Not to mention the threat of weather hindering the entire day. A 30 minute shower could kill the chance of any on-track action. This is exactly why Texas was forced to repave this off-season.

Atlanta should not put this off. Repave now. The sooner, the better. Get that new asphalt broken in as soon as possible. It has to happen.

Now, on to the race. No surprise that Harvick dominated the majority of this thing. The guy has lead more laps at Atlanta over the last 4 years than the previous three leaders combined. He just can't manage to finish the job. His last win came in 2001.

Losing this week was entirely of his own accord. Despite his fans trying to blame the 3 for causing that late race caution, which I thought was a weak move by the RCR team, Harvick was the one who got caught speeding on pit road.

Then the race seemed to fall in the hands of Kyle Larson. Until he chose to run a line that he hadn't touched all day. I didn't understand it, but Brad Keselowski may have been too good on the short run.

For a raceday dominated by Harvick, Keselowski grabbed the checkered. Ford is 2/2 on the season. Picking up SHR may have been the best thing to happen to the blue oval in years.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Clash

Saturday night the lights come on and the engines fire.

It's just a preseason race. No points, no championship implications, just money and pure racing.

It may only be A 75 lap race, but it is all racing fans want at this point. 

There is something about watching the best of the best mix it up without worrying about their points impact that shows the pure competition this wonderful sport has. Beating, banging, three-wide passes, and action that lasts for the entire race. 

17 drivers are set to take the track. It is also fans' first chance to see Daniel Suarez in a Cup car. The 25 year old Mexican driver is allowed to enter in replace of the now retired Carl Edwards.  

Also in their first clash is 2nd year Texan Chris Buescher who will benefit from the added seat time in his new ride.  

Interestingly, the sport's biggest star, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won't be piloting the 88 car on Saturday. Alex Bowman, Earnhardt's replacement for many races last season, will be attempting to grab his first win in a Cup car. 

Although there is no points awarded and the only impact the race has is bragging rights, there is guaranteed action awaiting for Saturday night. 

I suppose I need to make a prediction even though this is just a preseason event. I will predict the top 3 for every week of the season. 

Look for Toyota to look strong early in this race. I know that's not a very bold prediction following their most dominate season ever in the sport, but I feel they have an upper hand going into the season.

However, I do not think they will win. I like Brad Keselowski to take the checkered followed by Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliot.

One thing is for sure, coming to the line these guys won't be playing nicely, and whoever find the most luck will come away on top. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two Week Predictions Pt. 2

In part one of this series I previewed half of the cup series. In this part I will cover the second half.

Penske Racing has been arguably the second best team in the series over the past two years. The young combo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have been able to consistently win races and compete week in and week out. With one championship in 2012, the team came so close to grabbing its second of the chase era last season with Logano.

I expect the duo to continue to win races and run up front throughout the year. Both drivers should make the chase easily. I really think they have a solid chance at a title. If they can avoid some wrecks in the chase and maybe some other bad luck, they will compete late in the season.

The best single car team in the field is now a two car team. Furniture Row Racing enjoyed an extreme amount of success last year. The move to Toyota looked like a genius move for the Denver based organization. With the addition of Erik Jones, who I think could be the best rookie in the series since Kevin Harvick, the team is on the verge of greatness. Look for multiple wins from both teams this season. There might be some growing pains early in the year, but once the new car smell wears off the team will be a force.

The Ganassi boys made a little noise last season with Kyle Larson grabbing his first ever Cup win. Jamie McMurray made the chase and all seemed to be going well for the two car team. I think they achieved all they can hope for in a season. If McMurray grabs a win this year, which I think the chances are slim, the team will have to be satisfied. Expect maybe one win from the team, grabbing multiple is far stretch. I think the team just does not have what it takes to drive with the other top teams.

As far as the rest of the field, I don't expect much. Petty has struggled to compete this decade. JTG racing will have its competitiveness hurt with the addition of another team. Roush continues to fall. I expect the Ford team to struggle for top 10's. Especially with the loss of their veteran driver Greg Biffle.

The playoff field will be very similar to last year's. Look for Kyle Busch to lock up the regular season title. The fact that Harvick will be switching manufacturers and the 18's ability to dominate races sets up the perfect formula for him to earn those extra playoff points. The rest of the field will fall just about as expected. All four Gibbs cars should be in, despite the rookie Daniel Suarez joining the team. Both Penske cars, the 24, the 48, and the 88 from Hendrick, both Furniture Row cars, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick from SHR, Jamie McMurray, and my dark horse playoff pick A.J. Almendinger.

When the dust settles in Miami Kyle Busch with hoisting the first ever Monster Energy Nascar Cup. I know it's not a risky pick, but the Vegas product is just too good to pick against.

The first cars hit the track Thursday. I can already feel it. It's time. Let's go racing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Two Weeks Predictions pt. 1

Two weeks from Thursday cars will be on track at Daytona. What can we expect from this 2017 season?

This season will be different, plain and simple. New rules and a solid rookie class have set this up as a period of change in NASCAR. 

Last season we saw the domination of Joe Gibbs Racing for 2/3 of the season. This season won't see the same. With the retirement of Carl Edwards the four car team lost a valuable veteran input and a serious title contender. Kenseth, Hamin, and Busch will continue to win races. They'll be competitive every week and fight at the top of field week in and week out. They just will not dominate in the same fashion they did last season with Edwards missing from the team.

Daniel Suarez is coming off the heels of his Xfinity Series Championship, but ask any rookie driver and they'll tell you that the Cup Series is an entirely different animal. Without a single start in the series, he will struggle out of the gate. When the series begins visiting tracks for the second time his production will pick up. 

Stewart-Haas Racing has had a good three year run lead by the 4 team and Kevin Harvick. Now, standing on the horizon of Daytona, the team has new emblem on the front of the car. Switching from Chevy to Ford may not seem like a big deal, but I expect the team to stumble a bit. 

Going from the coveted Hendrick chassis to building their own will pose problems early. I think the same situation as Suarez applies here. They'll struggle out of the gate but as they get more comfortable in their new skin production will increase. Will the level of domination of the 4 team return? Probably not. Their production level was so high I don't think they have much of a chance with a new manufacturer. At least for now.

The Chevy banner is now solely in the Hendrick stable. With Jimmie Johnson winning his 7th title last season and Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his return, momentum has to be high around the shop. I see this year being a good year for the team. 

Chase Elliot has been around for year and I don't see reason why he can't snag his first win early on in the season. Johnson and Jr. will have a typical year. I'm going to say it right now, Johnson will win two races early and then take a break from victory lane for awhile. As everyone freaks out about this being the end of his career, he'll quietly continue to grind and find himself in the final four once again. 

This season is sure to have a different feel. Make sure you check out part 2 of this series Thursday to see my predictions for the rest of the field and my playoff predictions. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

It's Finally February -- 40 V8 Engines Firing

It is finally time we get to go racing.

The Super Bowl is Sunday. For most, it signifies the glorious end to another football season and the dawn of a long summer without America's new favorite sport.

For me, it means it's almost time. It is finally February. 

Every other sport has its biggest event at the end of the season. Fittingly, NASCAR has to do things a bit differently. 

The last weekend of February marks the biggest racing event of the year. The Daytona 500. Nothing else on earth is like it. 

40 V8 engines all firing for the first time since the beginning of a long winter. My heart is already racing in anticipation. The fanfare, the atmosphere, the name, the greats, the history, and the race. 

If you have never watched a race, let alone been to one, watch this one. Get into it. Pick a car and root for it. Feel the excitement of a 5 p.m. traffic jam at 205 mph. 

We are only four Sundays away. Get ready. Daytona is coming. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Speedways Taking Steps to Mix Up Racing

For the majority of NASCAR history the tracks have been generally the same. Four turns, two straights, and the start/finish line somewhere close to the middle of the front stretch. Times are changing.

With a demand for a more unique experience week to week, both challenging the drivers and creating new experiences for fans, tracks have begun to shake things up a bit.

Kentucky Speedway announced a repave beginning immediately after their 2015 race. Something that was expected until the speedway revealed layout changes as well.

By adding banking in turns 1 and 2 and leaving 3 and 4 flatter they created a unique challenge to both crew chiefs and drivers. Both drivers and fans raved about the changes when the track hosted its first race on the speedway last summer.

The drive to be unique did not stop there. Texas Motor Speedway announced changes by decreasing banking and widening turns 1 and 2 while leaving 3 and 4 the same as before.

Perhaps the most unique track to announce changes is Phoenix International Raceway. On Monday, the facility showed off their newly created plans to shake the racing up.

By moving the start/finish to the short stretch and changing the pit road the track completely changed race strategy. The dive bombs into old turn 1 should be incredible. What was already one of the most fun tracks on the circuit is guaranteed to be even more exciting.

I mean the track that produce the finish between Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick and the intense fall finish could be even more exciting. Let that sink in.

The speedway has now gone the extra mile to provide the drivers with a challenge and give the fans something new to experience.

I could not be more on board with this recent trend in the sport. What more could you ask for? We get to watch the best drivers in the world mix it up on tracks that they have never seen before.

Not to mention the challenge this creates for the crew to set the car up. Force these guys to pick what corner they set up for and let the drivers wrestle with their cars in the other.

All of this creates a show that the sport greatly needs. Couple this with the recent rule changes and stock car racing is at the dawn of a new day.

Take the time to applaud the speedways for taking these risks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

NASCAR Makes Rule Changes

On Monday evening NASCAR officials announced a new format for the 2017 season. With Daytona only 5 weeks away, the format is quite different than anything the sport has seen before.

Each race will be broken up into segments with a caution flag to break them up. Drivers will be awarded points based on their finishing position at that point.

However, only the top 10 will be given points. 10 for 1st, 9 for 2nd and so on.

The final segment will award points to all 40 drivers and pay out similar to previous seasons.

NASCAR did not stop there. The sport added a new type of point called playoff points. These are points that carry over into the newly termed playoffs that give drivers an advantage each round.

The points are paid out in multiple ways. Race winners, or final segment winners, will be given 5 playoff points. Each segment winner is awarded 1 playoff point. The regular season champion will be awarded 15 playoff points.

It's quite clear why NASCAR made these changes. They will try to hide behind the simple reason that it makes drivers fight to stay up front all race long. Which is true, but it is a clear effort to make the sport fit nicely to a TV audience.

NASCAR ratings fell consistently throughout the 2016 season. By breaking the race up into segments they provide a nice little commercial spot and break for the casual fan. Almost like a quarter in football.

It also gives some importance to lap 75 of a 300 lap race. Casual fans have been screaming for years that race length is too long. This is an easy way for NASCAR to "shorten" race length while still giving the old school fan full length races.

I really dislike the fact that these segments will be broken up with a yellow flag. It is NASCAR's way of doing away with the phantom debris cautions that they been under heat for the past few years.

This whole system is a unique idea, and I will hold my judgment until I see it in action. I am worried that NASCAR will chase away its core base by making the races something that is unrecognizable.

This sport is one deeply rooted in tradition. If you need proof of that just look back to when NASCAR added Toyota to the sport. They better hope that these changes work as intended, or a large portion of their fanbase will chased away.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Welcome to A Racing Nation

First off, welcome to A Racing Nation! A one-stop place for all things covering the great American sport that is NASCAR.

As this blog rolls forward, all things from news, opinion, and race recaps will be posted. If there something that happens in the world of racing, I will point it out and even throw in my opinion for free. 

I also travel to a decent number of NASCAR events every season so that allows me to throw some great pictures and opinion on the various motor sport venues across the country. First on my list is the greatest race of them all, the Daytona 500. 

Racing is a sport that we can all get behind. It's not just turning left and smashing the throttle through the floorboard of your Chevy. Well, it's mostly not just smashing the throttle. I plan on pointing out the strategy, finesse, and skill that it takes to climb to the top of this difficult sport. 

For those new to racing, stick with me and you will be awakened to a wonderful sport and southern pastime. The tailgating isn't half bad, either. 

I look forward to it.