Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jimmie Johnson caption contest time!

This photograph of Jimmie Johnson on the observation deck of the Empire State Building is outstanding, for its own artistic and contextual reasons. It'll undoubtedly find its way to section covers or tabs in February with headlines like "The view from the top" or "It's a long way down for NASCAR's King" (Kong, get it?)

But the shot, by Mike Stobe of Getty Images, is begging for some new captions/headlines.

I'll start.

Devilish: Wow, a penny will go through a pedestrian's head from this height.

Humorous: Damn, you can see David Gilliland from here.

Timely: Goddamned zombies.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maybe I suck; but I'll be back

Fortune cookies lie to us. Those little rectangular slips of paper impart nothing but vaguely encouraging but highly unlikely possibility. And we know it.

They never read, "That cough might be cancer," "the newspaper industry has lost its way," or "you'll struggle to maintain a barely middle-class existence." That might kill business at the Golden Dragon, anyway.

But after I'd indulged in a First Workless Monday of the Rest of My Life wallow at my local Chinese place, almost exactly 72 hours after my editor at the St. Petersburg Times called me into a boardroom, told me I was doing well, was liked, bright and laid off effective now, the little gem above was the first thing I'd smiled at in awhile.

I've been heartened every day since by the literally dozens of emails, texts and calls from my friends. I thank you all very much for that.
Sadly, I still find myself right in the sweet spot of the rage phase - depression and acceptance are getting impatient - which might explain how I was able to power-wash the back deck in record time this morning. The garage may need sweeping again, now that I think about it. And the rake still isn't hanging right.
I'll resist the urge to lash out. I'll save that for late-night beer bottle-throwing against the fence.
But I'll say this: that fortune cookie goddamn nailed it. See you soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Biffle didn't mind Tom Logano's finger as much as Joey Logano's alleged thumbed nose

Greg Biffle said on Thursday that Tom Logano's obscene gesture toward him on pit road after a Nationwide race last week was overblown.
Logano, the father of 19-year-old Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano, has not been reissued his permanent "hard card" credential by NASCAR following the incident at Fontana, Calif. He's been granted a weekend pass for racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Biffle seemed far less offended by Tom Logano's flipped finger than Joey Logano's perceived dismissiveness in a chat about their on-track scuffle two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway. Biffle said he probably shouldn't have run into Logano in the race last week, but said Logano needs to learn respect.
"I think you need to pay a little more respect to the veterans in the sport," Biffle said. "He chopped down in front of Tony Stewart at Dover (in the Sprint Cup race) and that didn't work out for him. And I was pretty angry over (their contact at Kansas). And so I just squeezed him out of room (at Fontana). I didn't run him into the fence on purpose. I just meant to put a little squeeze on him like he did to me at Kansas. I had nowhere to go. I had absolutely nowhere to go. I wanted to put him in that situation and see what he thought about having nowhere to go. ... We made more contact than I certainly expected."
Logano won both races.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It seemed like a good idea at the time

A group of young females dressed all in black, sporting 80s-vintage oversized dark sunglasses and mustaches were handing out invites to a Dale Earnhardt "champagne toast" hosted by his widow Teresa Earnhardt on Wednesday night. Wondering if she signed off on this?
Indeed, yes. The motif is the hook of a new Dale Earnhardt Foundation ad campaign featuring the tagline, "Everyone's got a little Dale in them."
At the reception in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday night, Teresa Earnhardt admitted she'd even tried on one the mustaches when the idea was being spit-balled.

Petty: Pearson got shafted; other pioneers deserve more credit for sport's development

Richard Petty was a virtual certainly for inclusion in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's inaugural class.
All-time wins leader, 200.
Co-all-time championships leader, seven.
But Petty seemed almost reticent in being named to that exclusive five-man group on Wednesday, especially when it came at the expense of the sport's pioneers not named France and his friend and foil, David Pearson.
"As far a I was concerned, when I saw the list of the deal I sat down and made a list of my own and Pearson would have been my number one pick," Petty said. "Look at all he accomplished. He came up in the early 60s as I did. We drove a bunch of cars that probably weren't near as safe or wasn’t near as good as what some of the later guys came up in.
"Anyone who 105 races and didn’t make the cut, somebody ain’t adding right."
Pearson, a three-time champion, was among the three top vote-getters not among the inductees, according to NASCAR. He said he wasn't upset by the omission, abut lacked his usual swagger.
"I told them before that I always heard they wanted Junior (Johnson) in there. Of course, you know that (Dale) Earnhardt and (Richard) Petty would be in there," he said. "When I saw that the two Frances (founder, Bill Sr., and son and former CEO, Bill, Jr.) were in there, I knew I didn't have a chance."
Current NASCAR chairman Brian France said he was "surprised, but very, very proud" that his family comprised two-fifths of the first class, noting the effort his grandfather and father used to build, then transform the sport into a major league. League spokesman Jim Hunter said that while the moment would have been a proud one for both Frances, Bill Jr., likely might have preferred to defer to a driver "because he said the promoters behind the scenes are not the ones who pay the bills, it's the actors up on the stage."
Richard Petty, though admittedly pleased at his impending induction, suggested his spot should have gone to his father, Lee, a three-time series champion who is ninth on the all-time wins list with 54. That selection would have satisfied his desire to see both a driver and pioneer enshrined.
"Without Lee Petty there probably wouldn’t have been a whole lot of what NASCAR is today," he said. "And he’s not the only one. There were a bunch of guys who came along at that time. If they hadn’t went and sacrificed and done their deal, then Richard Petty would never have been able to accomplish what he accomplished because there wouldn’t have been anything there for him."
Petty credited Harold Brasington's investment in building Darlington Raceway and the hosting of NASCAR's first 500-mile event in 1950 with the emergence of superspeedways on the sport's schedule.
"You think he didn’t gamble on that?," Petty asked. "Those are the people I think maybe should have been looked at a little bit harder.
"Some of us that made it, we've been in the limelight 15-20 years. What about those guys in the limelight 50-60 years ago which really made it all happen?"

Hall of Fame rounding into massive venue

NASCAR Hall of Fame officials led a tour of the new, as-yet-incomplete megafacility on Wednesday before the announcement of the members of the first class. It's still naked down to the drywall and wiring, but it portends to be a stunning venue. Think hall of fame meets museum, meets X-Box, meets Best Buy audio visual department.

One of the most popular spots is sure to be "Glory Road," a massive rotunda with a simulated track wrapped around the outer wall that mimicks the banking at several races.

Seen here, the entry way to "Glory Road."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Montoya: 'when I’m racing it’s all about me'

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya still contends with the notion that everything he does in NASCAR either reflects upon or promotes the cause of Latin Americans in NASCAR, American culture, the universe beyond. Danica Patrick faced much the same scrutiny when she became just the fifth woman to enter the Indianapolis 500. Certainly, their presence in regimens traditionally dominated by white males is a novelty, a curiosity, and possibly an exploitable resource for marketers and promoters.
Sure, Canadians and Californians have fielded questions about how their success could generate interest in NASCAR back home, but the continued line of reasoning seems just a little obtuse in the cases of Montoya and Patrick.

But they've handled it the same. It's about them. All the rest is a bonus. And they're right.

Said Montoya recently:

"It’s great that I’m a Latino. It’s great that people are paying attention to what I’m doing. It’s great I come here and set an example for children. I have a foundation with my wife and we give to charity. We try to keep the kids in school and off the streets and give them things. All of those things are great, and I do that in my time off, but when I’m racing it’s all about me. It’s whatever it takes to get the job done. When I’m racing hard and I’ve got a chance to win, I’m not thinking, 'Oh, the Latinos are going to be so happy when I win this race.' I’m going to be happy when I win this race. It’s great that I can bring the Colombian name out and the Latinos out and show people it doesn’t matter where you’re from if you can get the job done, whatever you want to do. But it doesn’t mean I live by them."

Photo courtesy NASCAR

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A.J. Foyt doesn't think Danica Patrick can make a successful switch to NASCAR (damned lion)

A.J. Foyt, arguably the greatest, indisputably the luckiest man to cast his body out onto a speedway (or run a bulldozer, or boat in the Gulf of Mexico or pose with a lion), has opinions. He's earned the right to share them and doesn't mind doing so, whether they buck convention or not. (And they often do.) So he offered a refreshing and as-yet-unspoken analysis of Danica Patrick's likelihood of success in a possible NASCAR dalliance next season on Sirius' 'Tradin' Paint.' Not caustic stuff for Foyt, but to the point.

FOYT: “Well, you know, to be truthful with you, I think she does a very good job in Indy cars but that’s a different type of car altogether. I hope she can cross over. Deep down I really don’t think she can. And I could be completely wrong. Because stock car racing is completely different than IndyCar racing. You take Dario Franchitti. Look, he’s come back from stock cars, been very competitive this year over in the Indy Series, right? And he couldn’t cut the mustard and he had some good equipment. It wasn’t like he was short equipment or people. Sam Hornish [Jr.] was very successful in Indy cars. He’s come around a little bit but not like he was in Indy cars and, let’s face it, Roger Penske’s got probably as good equipment as money can buy. And he’s struggling and he was a damn good IndyCar racer.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Junior still king, but King represents himself well in online NASCAR query

The top 10 NASCAR driver and query searches on, according to a release provided by the site. Richard Petty hanging in there at number 10 isn't bad for a man who hasn't raced since twelve days after Bill Clinton was elected president. It would stand to reason that many of the Earnhardt Jr. searches included the phrases "what is up with" or "last time he won," but every little bit helps.
Would love to see the tactful answer to the third-most-asked question.

Top NASCAR Driver Searches on
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Tony Stewart
3. Dale Earnhardt
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Bobby Labonte
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Michael Waltrip
8. Carl Edwards
9. Kasey Kahne
10. Richard Petty

Top NASCAR Questions on
1. How much do NASCAR drivers get paid?
2. Who won the Daytona 500 in 2009?
3. How do NASCAR drivers go to the bathroom?
4. Why was Lake Lloyd built?
5. What does NASCAR stand for?
6. Who won the first Daytona 500?
7. Who is Tony Stewart dating?
8. What do NASCAR drivers wear under their suits?
9. What is the closest finish in Daytona 500 history?
10. Why do they call Tony Stewart "Smoke"?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Now THAT is a broken foot

Courtesy Nelson Philippe's incredibly spunky and good-natured Twitpic documentation(via Facebook) of his treatment and recovery so far from an IndyCar crash with Will Power at Sonoma, Calif.

The streak will die, right? Edwards' broken foot makes back-flipping a really bad idea

Yes, Kerri Strug summoned up all her inner pluck and pain-suppression abilities to stick the landing on the gold-medal winning vault at the 1996 Olympics despite an ankle filled with cole slaw for tendons. But she had Bela Karolyi to carry her away that night in Atlanta.
Carl Edwards' customary post-victory celebration is a trickier issue now that a Frisbee put him on crutches as he limps into the same city.
Team owner Jack Roush probably couldn't lift him and crew chief Bob Osborne likely isn't willing, so if Carl Edwards wins his first race of the season this weekend at Atlanta - where he's won three times - or in the final 11 races, his ceremonial back flip off the car door is likely to come to an end. Paging Mr. Korolyi.

Shilling through the pain: Carl Edwards gets sponsor name-drop in broken-foot memo

Never once have I heard a baseball thank greenies for helping him stay focused for the 0-2 fastball he sent over the left field wall, or a football player commend the Icy Hot that loosened up that balky hamstring.
But here's Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards - while trying to explain how an impressive physical specimen such as himself broke his foot playing Frisbee - glad he has the supplemental coverage he needs. Another hit for the public option. ...

Concord, N.C. (September 3, 2009) - Roush Fenway Racing confirms today that Carl Edwards fractured his right foot yesterday. He is working with doctors at the University of Missouri who have cleared him to drive for this weekend’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide events at Atlanta Motor
Speedway. He is currently on crutches to assist with walking but will race the No. 99 Aflac Ford and No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races respectively this weekend.

“I know this probably sounds ridiculous to a lot of people and I could hardly believe it myself,” said Edwards from his home in Columbia, Mo. “I was playing Frisbee with a couple of buddies and we both went for the Frisbee at the same time. I put my foot on it, my friend dove for it, and the next thing you know…we all heard a pop. I knew it was broken and we all kind of looked at each other in disbelief that of all things, I would break my foot playing Frisbee. I
immediately went to the doctor and have been working with a great team of people at the University of Missouri who work with all the college teams here. They have me on crutches to help me walk but said I could race in both races this weekend and shouldn’t have a problem using the accelerator.
“I guess you never know when something is going to happen. This is
obviously an unforeseen accident and even though I am not going to miss
work, my Aflac policy has me covered. I’ve now seen first hand how Aflac works and it’s clear that no matter how big or small the accident is Aflac is there for their policyholders.”
If only he was sponsored by Vicodin.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kenseth vs. Kenseth: this time it's for real!

Wry wit and knowing smiles await the loser. It will be just awful.
Matt Kenseth will compete against his 16-year-old son, Ross, on Saturday in a limited Late Model race at Madison (Wisc.) International Speedway. They’ve never competed against each other in an actual race on a track. Sarcastic Midwestern bragging rights figure to be the prize. And neither one will want to be on the business end of that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

If the pitch is a strike, can he start on Thursday?

Clint Bowyer is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Kansas City Royals game on Tuesday. Hopefully he'll need a glove. Hopefully he'll bring this one.
Honestly, this was just my excuse to post my favorite NASCAR picture of the season.
But the Royals could use a fresh arm about now. And after finishing 21st at Bristol on Saturday night, Bowyer is likely to need something to occupy his thoughts in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the state of NASCAR and the car of "now"

I just think, that everyone needs to ... what I am getting at is I think we need to open our eyes a little bit, everyone. I think media could address it a little stronger. I think that the drivers could be a little more vocal about it. I think NASCAR could probably be a little more urgent in improving our product. With the ultimate result is great, exciting racing that the fans will enjoy. That the drivers enjoy and so everyone is happy. That should be our quest always, even when things are good. I feel like especially right now, we need to really, really try to turn over every stone.
That includes where we are with this COT and where we feel like its development is. And where we feel like its future goes and where we feel like this car goes; how it evolves. I just have a sense of urgency over the last couple of weeks I guess to see if we can' do better.

The reason, I think, where that comes from, is the double-file restarts and the spark that really put in to the racing. I enjoy it, I think all the drivers enjoy it. I think the fans love it. We need more of that. We need to do that. Things that are tangible such as the cars themselves and think of more ideas we can do within the races to add more of that. The double-file restarts gave us an opportunity to be exciting for only a moment and we need to figure out how we can maintain that throughout the entire race. “I feel like, I just remember how the other cars drove. I liked how they drove and I like how this car is safe but I want to be able to race it like we raced the other cars.

NASCAR is open to all of the drivers. I was just asked a question and gave an answer. I'm not trying to start a crusade against nobody or cause anybody problems. We all, I think, the drivers, myself included, we all work together with NASCAR to do this. I am just trying to remind everyone of the optimal goal and prize for us is to have better racing.

Even when things are good, we shouldn't rest on any success we may be having. We are not really where we want to be, I don't think, as a sport. We need to do thinks to excite corporate America. Excite the fans. We need to get proactive immediately to make that happen.

Dale wags the dog no more? NASCAR dismisses Earnhardt Jr.'s thoughts

There was a time when a pointed critique from Dale Earnhardt Jr., seemed to send papers shuffling inside the NASCAR officials' hauler. At least that was the perception, which alone is a powerful notion within the sport. NASCAR's most popular driver and crown prince at times seemed amused and empowered by that realization.
He equated launching beer cans with free speech when they rained upon the track at Talladega Superspeedway in April, 2004 after the field was frozen under caution in the final laps and Jeff Gordon coasted to victory, one spot ahead of the crowd favorite. Oddly, he mused how it might have been good that he finally got the bad end of a controversial decision.
But three months later, the green-white-checker rule took effect, eliminating such situations.
So Earnhardt's candid, measured assessment of the current Sprint Cup car last weekend would seemingly have some clout. Apparently not so much anymore. After his string of disappointing seasons, his fall from the ranks of the weekly competitive, is he just another voice in the garage? He, after all, and his family have been around this sport for a couple of years.
NASCAR president Mike Helton didn't sound very accommodating - borderline dismissive - in response to some of Earnhardt's suggestions.
"There's some frustration there that I think contributes to his comments," Helton said. "His dad would come in when he was having a bad stretch, he (would say), 'Man, I'd like to change something.' And I think that's what (Junior) was talking about."
Didn't sound like it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bourdais looking for a team that trusts him, would love it to be Newman/Haas/Lanigan again, but considers a return unlikely in current climate

Exchanged e-mails with four-time former Champ Car champion and Formula One refugee Sebastien Bourdais - Toro Rosso actually fired him in a text message? Classy - after he returned from vacation (or would that be holiday?). He's open to a return to North American open wheel racing, would love for it to be with Newman/Haas/Lanigan, where he dominated prior to his F1 attempt in 2008. But he's not sure it's a viable situation, even though the team said last month it would do whatever it could for its former star.

Q: Is it your preference to remain in F1/race in Europe or are you open to returning to North America?
A: It doesn't really matter. The most important (thing) is to find an exciting racing program and to be competitive. I need to find a place where the people I work with trust me, so I can enjoy myself driving race cars again.

Q: Which begs the question, have you spoken with Newman/Haas/Lanigan about returning, either this year or next? Or spoken to other teams?
A: I have stayed in touch with NHLR ever since I left, but unless the team finds more sponsors it doesn't seem very likely (even if I would love to). Regarding the other options, I am quite open, however a lot of teams are struggling to find the money they need to run at the top and/or at all.

Q: How much more attractive is a unified North American open wheel series than when you were in Champ Car?
A: IndyCar isn't as strong as the open wheel fans would love to see it, but open wheel is doing a bit better now than when I was in Champ Car. I always had a lot of fun racing in the States and IndyCar surely is one of the very few options if I am to stay in open wheel.