The Checkered Flag of Texas -- by Ira Ostenheimer 
Monday, April 6, 2009, 12:53 PM
Posted by Administrator
It was a long time coming, 47 races in fact, since Jeff Gordon was last able to drive into Victory Lane. Never before was there such a lull in his career; never before did he have to listen to waves of criticism about him losing his focus and his commitment; never before did the champagne taste so good.

His victory today at Texas has quieted those who were forecasting that his shooting star was slowly being consumed in the atmosphere on its way back down to earth. One victory doesn’t make a season but it was clear that 2009 is going to be very kind to the kid from Vallejo California. The skill, mastery and preparation that has always been the hallmark of Hendricks Motorsports came together once again through the restructuring efforts of Steve Letarte who made sure, during the off-season, that this year wasn’t going to be a repeat of 2008. The star that was once threatened with extinction has assumed a new orbit, one leading it even closer to the place of prominence it once occupied.
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NASCAR’s Abandoned Past - The Fallacy? -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 04:03 PM
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David Caraviello’s recent article, “Fallacy of an Abandoned Past” on www.NASCAR.com made some interesting points regarding his contention that there’s a sizable contingent of race fans who have been wrongly “hammering NASCAR for abandoning its past”. Caraviello then goes on to express his belief that this is not necessarily the case because there are still many time honored tracks in operation today, like Martinsville (NASCAR), Darlington (NASCAR), Rockingham (ARCA/formally NASCAR), Indianapolis (IRL/NASCAR), Bristol (NASCAR) and so on that represent preserved time capsules of the past. According to his figures, 14 out of the present 22 Sprint Cup Series tracks were built before 1970. No one can dispute the fact that NASCAR, unlike MLB, NHL, MBA and NFL hasn’t held onto a preservationist stance, steering clear of the fickleness other major professional sports organizations have displayed by jumping towns and tearing down revered stadiums and arenas for reasons that appear, on the surface to generations of fans living there, thoughtless and arbitrary at best.

Caraviello’s points are well taken but he’s missing the other half of the equation, one that has nothing to do with the venues in which these races take place, one that has nothing to do with better food concessions, mega parking lots or luxury suites. It has everything to do with the people that pay the money to see these races.

NASCAR’s roots are deeply imbedded in the lore and the mores of the South, predicated upon non-elitist ideals. It was a sport for the common man and his family, one that embraced an acceptable connection with the hard edged reality and craziness that characterized the “shine” industry, practiced on country roads throughout the southeast. On weekends, it took the place of the radio, later the TV. It was a place to go to see friends and to be seen in rural areas that often offered little more. Local heroes played to the crowds on Saturday night and went back to their mundane, repetitive minimum wage jobs on Monday.

Over time, a sport that was mostly an afterthought on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” became the stuff of dreams for sponsors and investment companies who were no longer color blind to the green that grew wild in them thar hills and before long, fans found themselves squeezed out by fences, staggering ticket prices and hard aluminum benches. Sure, most of the old racetracks still looked the same. You could even close your eyes for a moment and imagine Fireball or Petty or Pearson or Mantz or Yarborough blasting by but when you opened them, the reality was that you weren’t going to get an autograph, the food you ate was going to stay with you for a day and any attempt to say a word to your hero was going to be met with a rebuke from a security guard that probably didn’t share your passion for the sport.

The present financial downturn has been catastrophic in so many ways to so many people but even these clouds have a proverbial “silver lining”. It has forced all of us to re-evaluate and take a look at what’s really important in our own lives and to find ways of doing more with less. Not being the exception, NASCAR has had to do the same and it has become clear that continued growth in the racing industry hinges upon not just keeping the old tracks in operation but upon redirecting energies toward re-engaging and celebrating the fans and their families in a way that will make every race for them the stuff that will be passed on for generations to come. From 1948 onward, this approach came natural during NASCAR’s infancy and adolescence. Looking back to what made it so appealing then can provide the means to make it even more appealing in the future.
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The Fear of Commitment -- by J. R. Andres 
Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 03:38 PM
Posted by Administrator
C’mon Kyle, it was only a painted white line on the racetrack but you crossed it today in Martinsville – that line of commitment to yourself, your sponsor, your fans and to the rules of the sport. NASCAR didn’t want you to engage in some mid-race bodywork by scrubbing the k-wall just to straighten out your rear fender after it was redesigned by Ron Hornaday’s Chevrolet with only a few laps remaining in the rain delayed Kroger 250. It looked like you were coming into the pits but you knew you only wanted to win, you wanted to stop your tire from rubbing, you wanted to maintain your points lead in the CAMPING WORLD Truck Series. You figured everyone, especially NASCAR, would understand your reason for doing so but after you received the penalty for the infraction and at the end of the race, got out of your truck, threw your helmet in the rear bed and literally ran across the track for sanctuary, you once again said you didn’t care what anyone thought of you.

There seems to be a disconnect between your behavior and what the MARS, Incorporated etiquette coaches have been trying to teach you all along, and it looks like you need to return to the classroom for a refresher course straight away.

It might just be another “that’s racin” situation, the overused catch-all phrase that explains and makes sense of racetrack aberrations that sometimes defy description or then again, it might be explained away in terms of the behavior exhibited by one who lacks a measurable amount of impulse control.

We’re on top of the world when we own hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, your opponent is up to his neck in unpaid mortgages, besides being low on cash, and he just landed on your property late in the game. When the situation is reversed, we want to throw down our game piece, knock everything off the board and storm out of the room. I did that when I was 10 years old but I sure as hell didn’t do it when I was 23 years old.
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Kyle Busch vis a vis Earnhardt Sr. -- by J. R. Andres 
Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 12:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
It was interesting to hear the caller’s comments on today’s SIRIUS NASCAR Radio about Kyle Busch’s attitude and his “get out of the way” driving tactics. Busch the Younger supposedly went on record recently saying that he didn’t care whether he was liked or disliked, adding that he wasn’t prepared to assume the burden of being the most popular SPRINT Cup driver, having to live up to the expectations of the NASCAR Nation and all that. This seemed to grind the sensibilities of a lot of fans but do they have anything to really be upset about?

Those who initially considered Kyle a flash in the pan, slathered with beginner’s luck, now have to concede the fact that he truly is talented on the track. His public relations skills, on the other hand, leave considerable room for improvement by any measure of the stick. Even so, who can deny that there are many similarities between “The Wild Child” and Earnhardt Sr.? The “get out of the way” driving style was perfected and implemented by “The Intimidator” for years on end and now there’s a wunderkind doing the same thing? That’s not acceptable in the minds of many. If you look beneath the surface, the only difference: one is named Busch and the other is named Earnhardt.
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At Bristol, It’s Now or Never (maybe) -- by J. R. Andres 
Monday, March 23, 2009, 12:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
What a difference a year makes. Who would have thought that: 1) tickets were going to be made available to the denizens of Thunder Valley for the first time in 13 years, and 2) Travis Kvapil’s loss of the Golden Corral sponsorship for his Yates Ford Fusion may be the first harbinger of the recessional malaise that’s beginning to tighten its grip upon those, whose performances fail to impress the keepers of the corporate bean vaults.

1. It’s beyond comprehension how any venue can sellout 160,000 seats for fifty-three straight events. Up until the last minute this year, Bristol wasn’t sure if it was going to make a Guinness Book record setting fifty-four straight but it did. The positive in all of this was that a significant number of corporate sponsors decided to do something else this weekend, thus making room for those that had been shut out the ticket competition for over a decade. A little bit of “corporate conscience”, either intended or unintended, goes a long way today.

2. Like it or not, NASCAR’s top 35 “lock-in” rule has taken on a whole new meaning following the Food City 500 because those that were assured a spot in the program for the first six races this year, based upon last year’s performance must now be in the top 35, based upon their performance in 2009. This means that some teams may be walking the proverbial plank of the ship scheduled to arrive in Martinsville next weekend. To make matters worse, drivers like Kvapil, Menard, Mayfield, Gilliland, LaBonte and Bodine are now faced with a no warranty situation that will not only not guarantee their place in the field but also threaten the commitment of sponsors who are jittery about supplying the funds necessary for them to continue anyway.
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