Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In Busch Brothers, Dale Earnhardt Jr, David Stremme, NASCAR, Ricky Rudd, Sterling Marlin, Straightaway on July 10, 2007 at 7:42 pm

(every Tuesday, Out of Bounds features “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall; this may be Siddy’s last update till August, however, due to his impending marriage and honeymoon. Congrats, Siddy!)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY
by Siddy Hall

DAVID STREMME, WE FEEL YOUR PAIN

Daytona has provided NASCAR fans with the two finest races of the 2007 season. The recent summer version was the formula for a perfect race:

Big-Time, Big-Name Drama, as teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin took each other out while running up front followed by The Blame Game. Stewart got into a similar skirmish with Kurt Busch at the season opener while battling for the lead. That’s two reasons why Stewart is winless this year.

Seven cautions resulting from wrecks or spins, yet the drivers’ amazing skill and courage were on full display as a messy “Big One” was somehow avoided.

An unexpected race winner, Jamie McMurray, came from the rear to provide the major upset for Roush Racing and a rare 2007 victory for Ford.

An absence of wrecks in the final laps allowed for the exhilarating eight lap shootout that included the photo-finish ending between McMurray and Kyle Busch.

The race has provided fans with a big shot of adrenaline. Message boards are filled with opinions concerning Tony Stewart’s outburst against Denny Hamlin (consensus: Tony’s a jerk) along with Kyle Busch’s remarks about his soon-to-be future teammates at Hendrick not providing him draft-help, particularly Jeff Gordon (consensus: Kyle and Tony should be forced to share the same bathroom and for good measure, Kyle’s brother, Kurt, can use it too).

Can this happy guy be a JERK? Message board folks say YES

Hamlin’s car blowin “Smoke” over Stewart’s finger-pointing?

And then of course, there was also the great finish. So race fans are still buzzing.

What’s easy to overlook and rarely discussed was the great middle part of the race. Between laps 25-115, or for about 90 laps which made up over one-half of the event, the race was wreck-free. It was straight Green save for a “debris” caution at lap 58. The field got strung out about as much as a restrictor-plate race can be.


Kyle Busch crabbed about lack of support at Hendrick, particularly calling out Jeff Gordon

When the dust had cleared the “breakaway” group held two surprises. Running alongside the Busch Brothers and Jimmie Johnson were J.J. Yeley and David Stremme. For numerous circuits we were allowed to watch the choreography of these cars as they entered and exited the turns. Some were sliding high, others staying low. It was beautiful to watch (Thanks TNT!).

The biggest surprise of course was Stremme. Here’s a guy with two top-10s on his resume in 56 starts (10th at Texas, 8th at Talladega). Not only did he reach the front group but he was showing staying power. This was no fluke. David Stremme was a serious threat to win the race.

Then disaster struck the Coors Light machine. Following a cycle of green flag pit stops, Sterling Marlin got loose and tagged Ricky Rudd lightly, bringing out a Yellow. Despite having fresh tires, Stremme’s team decided to pit while some of the race leaders stayed out. They quickly re-discovered that there’s a risk to gaining that fresh rubber and extra fuel.


Stremme: If it wasn’t for bad luck …

While trying to exit a crowded pit road, Stremme’s departure turned out to be ill-timed. Paul Menard’s machine met Stremme’s – and poof! – the Coor’s team great hopes were dashed. At the time, TV viewers had a long view of pit road. Off in the distance we could see a car turned sideways; something was wrong. A closer view provided a view of Stremme throwing his car in reverse as he returned to his pitbox to fix the damage. Only a Lucky Dog pass helped provide the team with a now meager 22nd place finish.

That in a nutshell is the essence of NASCAR. Things come out of nowhere. It could be Dale Earnhardt running over debris while nearing the finish line at Daytona. It can be a flat tire causing a wreck. It can be a hot dog wrapper stuck to your grill causing the car to overheat. It can be a little tap on pit road.

What made David Stremme’s tough luck hard to watch was that he hasn’t tasted any success at this level. And in this game, if you don’t taste success, if you don’t get lucky, it’s possible that you never will.

Folks, I’ll probably be taking the next month off from this column. I’ve got a marriage and a honeymoon to attend to. The first test of our young marriage will be Honeymoon versus Blog. Right now I’m saying honeymoon, but you never know.

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In Busch Brothers, Daytona, NASCAR, Straightaway, Top 20 on July 3, 2007 at 6:21 pm

(every Tuesday, Out of Bounds features “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY
by Siddy Hall

20 THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT NASCAR

20. FRONT TIRE CHANGERS: Everybody in the pit crew is cool. The Jackman is the King galloping around the car with his mechanical baby. The Gasman and Catch Can look like they arrived from outer space. But nothing is cooler than the pitstop ending and the front tire changer pointing the way back to the track.

Ohhhh…..#$!%! For THIS I’m only #20??

19. THE BLAME GAME: Robby Gordon has put a wrinkle in someone’s machine. Soon, the cameras await an explanation from the participants. Will someone apologize or will there be more future fireworks? Better yet, The Intimidator shrugs after knocking someone out, “Awww, that was just one of them racin’ deals.”

18. BARNEY HALL: Name a big event in the history of NASCAR and the voice of NASCAR radio was probably there. He’s like your favorite uncle entering your home each Sunday afternoon.

The Ernie Harwell of NASCAR — Barney Hall
17. THE BUMP ‘N RUN: When performed to perfection it’s the prettiest move in racing. When done wrong, a fist-fight can break out. The high-speed tap takes nerves and finesse. See Jeff Gordon on Rusty Wallace at Martinsville or Jeremy Mayfield on Dale Earnhardt at Pocono for examples.

16. FLAG POLES: When camping at the track don’t forget your flagpole. The person with the tallest flagpole is the King Daddy for the weekend. Four stories tall with an American flag, a #3 flag plus a #8 is pretty standard.

15. WARM-UP LAPS: You’ve been waiting a long time for the race to finally arrive. And now they are driving by in slow motion, warming up the tires, all those glorious colors and the deafening noise. There’s nothing like it.

14. SOUTHERN ACCENTS: Hey, what’s wrong with Jimmie Johnson anyways? It’s the way that he talks. That ain’t southern. You gotta have the right drawl. In the dictionary, next to “southern accent” is a picture of Sterling Marlin. Or, make that Sturlin’. I wanna talk like him.

Johnson doesn’t got no drawl at all … at least not like Marlin (above)
13. DIE-CASTS: Put ‘em everywhere, all over your house. Build a massive glass enclosed cabinet that reaches the ceiling, so friends can see them and they don’t collect any dust. And most importantly, don’t let your kids play with them.
“Honey, you can keep the house; this one is MINE”

12. BARRELL ROLLS: O.K. so the Roof Flap was a great invention. Amazingly, those two little pieces of metal keeps the car from flying to the moon. But you must admit, you’ll always watch a good barrel roll. It’s a special bonus when the driver walks away. Here’s a good one with Davey Allison at Pocono.

11. ELI GOLD and ALAN BESTWICK: What!! Eli Gold is broadcasting Trucks? No way. And where did Alan Bestwick go? How did these guys fade from the scene.? It’s not right.

10. TIRE RUB MARKS: It’s been a long afternoon at the short track. Just look at all those beautiful rub marks. The fenders, the doors, the quarter-panels. Just covered in sheet-metal kisses. We need more of this.

9. RE-PAINTED SCHOOL BUSES: Forget your fancy RV. The re-modeled 25 year-old school bus is the way to attend a NASCAR event. Just rip out the seats and add a platform to the roof for watching the race and let the Good Times Roll.

8. DRIVER NAMES: Dick Trickle, Banjo Matthews, Lake Speed, Fireball Roberts, Swirvin’ Irvan, Kasey Kahne, Shorty Rollins, Junior Johnson, Little E, Cale Yarborough, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Buck Baker, Speedy Thompson, Coo-Coo Marlin, Elmo Langley, Fonty Flock and Cotton Owens.

Where are all the Fireball Robertses nowadays?
7. NASCAR JUNK: Think of an object. Now place a driver name and number on it. Now go buy it!! Blankets, key chains, teddy bears, beer coolers, mud flaps, baby clothes, panties, guitars, guns, lunch boxes, tools. Turn your home into a NASCAR museum.
Look closely; this ain’t no run-of-the-mill, ugly lamp; it’s a NASCAR ugly lamp!

6. HOODLESS CARS: Hey, check out the lap traffic. It’s a car with no hood!!! Awesome!! Somebody had problems.

5. THE BUSCH BROTHERS: Sure, go ahead and complain you boo-birds. The coolest guys in NASCAR are right under your nose. It’s the Bratty Busch Brothers!! Trouble-makers are cool! They stir up the action. They’re from Las Vegas!!! They are the Busch Brothers and you’re not!!

BUSSSCCCHH!
4. BRISTOL NIGHT RACE: Thunder Valley, baby!! Those poor critters in the woods probably just hide all night. It sounds like the world will explode. Nope, it’s just the pre-race party. Just wait until the show begins. Don’t forget your earplugs!!

3. GEOFF BODINE DAYTONA TRUCK WRECK: He lived to tell about it!! That’s the beauty of it. It’s why the drivers are our heroes. Don’t remember this wreck? Sure, you do. It’s right here from YouTube.

2. PAINT JOBS: We should all paint our cars this way. Dale Earnhardt’s Wrangler car. Mountain Dew. Tide. Bud. Miller Lite. M & M’s. Cingular. Target. They are all cool. Heck, you could have a Joe’s Root Canal car and even that would be cool.

The Skoal car: “Just a pinch between the axle and fender”

1. DAYTONA: Twice a year and they are both grand. The long awaited season opener, plus the old Firecracker 400, now under the lights. Happy 4th of July!!

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In Busch Series, NASCAR, Straightaway on June 26, 2007 at 1:28 pm

(every Tuesday, Out of Bounds features “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

TOO MANY TEAMS (50), TOO MANY RACES (36), A SHORTAGE OF TRACK DATES AND HOW TO FIX IT

Every week about 50 teams are trying to fill 43 slots. After spending millions of dollars these 15 non top-35 teams have their fortune decided by a two-lap solo dash in non-racing conditions. It’s like a golf tournament field being decided by a “Longest Drive” contest. Anybody considering an entry into the NASCAR game right now probably just slammed a fifth of whiskey. You’d have to be out of your mind. Just ask Bill Davis or Team Red Bull.

Meanwhile the Busch Series continues to flounder along in its mysterious ways. The races are shown on TV and only the teams and their nearest relatives seem to care.

There’s a way to solve this and a host of other problems in NASCAR. I’m about to propose a way to make the Chase more exciting, the races better, the teams happier, and the track owners happier. It’ll be a happy fest after the “Siddy Hall Fix NASCAR Game Plan” is initiated.

STEP 1: Franchise the teams. The days of a “Team Elliott” rising through the ranks from an outback, small-town garage to the pinnacle of NASCAR is long gone. As beautiful of a story that it is – a guy or a group of people building a car in their own garage and taking it to the top – this is folklore from the past that will not repeat itself.

Franchise the teams and let them plan on racing each week. Allow teams to develop a driver without fear of being outside the Top-35 in points. In total, franchise 72 teams. Yup, 72.

STEP 2: Split the 72 teams into two groups of 36. (For now, we’ll call these groups the Gordon group and the Earnhardt group.) Each group races on its own. So you would have two separate standings with 36 cars each.

STEP 3: Shorten the season to 30 races. After 20 races the top-20 from each group forms a new group of 40 cars and the Chase begins similar to the current rules. Voila !! You now have a Chase where every car on the track is competing for the championship. Who’s not happy?

Please notice that even while reducing the race schedule, we are also adding race dates. There are now 50 race dates. Races for everybody! Rockingham step right up, you get two. Kentucky, help yourself!! Iowa, you’re in luck! Ontario, yes Canada, you finally receive the race dates that you deserve. O. Bruton Smith, you get your second Texas race date! Everybody is happy!

See? Boss Hogg, er, O. Bruton is happy!!
Under Siddy’s plan, more of THIS will be seen
STEP 4: Base the starting grid for each race on the inverse order of the point standings. The points leader starts in the back. Sure, you could argue that the points leader should start in front, but what’s the fun in that? It’s more interesting to watch these cars battle their way to the front. And the lesser teams get some airtime at the start of the race. Everybody is happy!

OTHER BENEFITS: By reducing the number of cars to 36 (or 40 for the Chase) the short track races will improve. Am I alone in believing that Bristol has suffered since allowing 43 cars in the race? The track is too congested. There’s a breakout of Yellow Fever at these races from all the cautions. Reducing the cars will increase the racing. Plus. NASCAR could actually hold three races at Bristol. One for the Gordon group, one for the Earnhardt group, and then one for the Chase.

Gordon’s wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, is on board with the Hall proposal (can’t ya tell?)
Earnhardt, Jr.’s sister Kelley, spotted giving her OK of Hall’s idea to brother Dale
Currently there are about 50 teams. Assuming that each team would be awarded a franchise, this allows room for 22 more teams. By setting a 2010 deadline, more teams could get organized and get on board. Certainly there would be some current and former drivers that would like a piece of this action.

Under this set-up, fans could enjoy two races each weekend that actually matter. One on Saturday night and one Sunday afternoon.

So long Busch Series!

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In Dale Earnhardt Jr, Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, Straightaway on June 19, 2007 at 1:45 pm

(every Tuesday, Out of Bounds will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall


JUNIOR + JEFF + JIMMIE = ANYONE BUT HENDRICK

Wow. One week after the announcement that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was planning on joining the Rick Hendrick Victory Garage, I’m still left shaking my head. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

In Daytona during “Speedweek” – when Little E became a Big E, or A, depending on your viewpoint, by dropping his bombshell that he was seeking a controlling interest in DEI – I was pumping my fist like he’d just won a race. I was like, “That’s right Junior! Show ‘em who’s the real Boss!”

But it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Because there was only supposed to be two options. Either he obtained DEI – in its entirety, hopefully – or he went to race for Richard Childress in the Black Number 3.

Rick Hendrick!!?? Why not Childress? What the heck happened? RCR has three good race teams and room for a fourth. From afar, it appeared that everything was perfectly in place for Junior to hop in the #3, or the #33, or the number #333 or whatever he liked.

Richard Childress has been oddly quiet and detached about the entire situation. It’s gotta hurt hearing that relationships played a big part in Junior’s decision and that his long successful relationship with Dale, Sr. was outweighed by Rick Hendrick.

Childress has been mum, but must have that “left out” feeling
This is strictly a guess, but I think having Jeff Gordon as a teammate may have played a larger role in Earnhardt’s decision-making than he’s let on. I recall Dale Sr. taking a strong liking to Gordon when the latter was enjoying his early success on the track. Dale treated Gordon more like a son than a rival. He regularly displayed a warmth toward Jeff that you rarely saw from The Intimidator. He never even punted Gordon into a wall.
Gordon (24) and Earnhardt, Jr.: Senior might have liked their new role as teammates


In spite of how “Earnhardt Nation” has fabricated a bitter rivalry between Earnhardt, Jr. and Gordon, it appears that this rivalry existed at least in large part in the imagination of the fans. Gordon has always shown class and respect toward the Earnhardts. And in the small bubble of NASCAR, that’s a bridge toward friendship that Dale, Jr. may be seeking on some level. Shocking as it may seem, he wants to hang out with his own kind and that kind may be none other than Jeff Gordon.

After years of bitterness that Junior fans have displayed towards Gordon’s “Kool-Aid Nation” it’s amusing to watch Earnhardt fans scrambling to justify the impossible contradiction of Little E sharing the same garage as the 24-Car. The most common justification is to invoke a sort of NASCAR version of patriotism. Any “true” Earnhardt fan will continue to raise their can of Bud to Junior regardless of the car owner.

But that is only one half of the equation. The other half is what to do about Jeff Gordon (and Jimmie Johnson). Do you still invoke the middle-finger salute as he drives by? I doubt that they will. Instead they may be forced to create some new arch enemy.

Personally, I never quite bought into the Earnhardt – Gordon rivalry. I’ve always liked both. If I were hard-pressed to choose one then I would go with Gordon. But I’ve happened to like both guys for the same reason. They’ve both displayed a lot of grace under pressure.

I disagree with critics that charge Gordon with being too robotic of a personality. He’s always come across to me as the real deal. A cool, classy dude that handles pressure well. And beneath the smooth exterior lies a thirst for winning that can’t be quenched. Part of his greatness is that he never gets bored with winning.

It’s always been about winning for Gordon

Likewise, Junior has handled a ridiculous amount of media glare and pressure with equal skill. It’s utterly amazing how much weight this guy carries on his shoulders. He really is royalty. He was born to carry NASCAR on his shoulders. He makes it easy to forget how tough a job that is.
So it’s actually fitting that the two kings of the sport (with apologies to Richard Petty) – Gordon and Earnhardt, plus the reigning champion, Jimmie Johnson – should become teammates in 2008. It has its own logic that extends beyond contract agreements.

If it’s high school again, the 3-J’s (Junior, Jeff & Jimmie), would be the ones surrounded by the pretty girls in the hallways. The Gibbs drivers would be a slightly lesser rival bunch. And the gang from Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates would be skipping classes to work on new tattoos.

The Budweiser 25: Jr.’s car # in ’08?
This is why in 2008, I say “Anyone but Hendrick’s.” Anyone but the 3-J’s. They’re too much. Individually, they are fine. Collectively, I can’t stand them. They make me feel like I’m cheering for the New York Yankees. They are supposed to win. And that ain’t no fun.
The Hendrick team, circa 1995

A note to Robbie Gordon: In 2008, fix your cross-hairs on those Hendrick cars. Juan Pablo Montoya (below), you’ll be my hero if you do the same. Because if there is anything that I cannot stand, it’s a group of people who are clearly better than the rest. Hendrick Motorsports has won six of the last 12 championships, plus perhaps this year’s. Now they’re adding Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That’s too much. I can’t stand them now.

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on June 5, 2007 at 5:49 am

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway”, NASCAR commentary from Brazil-based Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY
by Siddy Hall

TRUEX 1st TIME WIN THE FLIPSIDE OF MEARS
Dover Downs is a great racetrack. It’s possibly my favorite on the circuit. Dover was the scene of one of my favorite off-track skirmishes. It involved Derrike Cope, Ernie Irvan and Irvan’s crew chief, Larry McReynolds, back in the mid-1990s.

Ernie Irvan was the quickest car that day and somewhere in the first 100 laps he was about to put Cope a lap down. When Cope failed to show the ‘proper’ courtesy to the race leader within say, 0.005 seconds, Ernie lacked the proper patience and tapped Cope, sending both cars reeling. Tow trucks were required and Irvan’s seemingly bright day was finished.

As the cameras followed Cope through the garage area, suddenly Larry McReynolds blasted through, blabbering away, wanting a piece of Cope. How dare a jalopy like Cope’s not get out of the race leader’s way!! Roll out the red carpet, Derrike. It’s Ernie Irvan!! The bewildered Cope failed to repond with what I believed was proper vengeance. To this day I’m still mad that Derrike didn’t deck McReynolds on the spot.

NASCAR/WWF, circa 1997: McReynolds (right) played Bobby “The Brain” Heenan against Cope (left), on behalf of Irvan (below)
Yesterday’s Dover race lacked these types of fireworks. Instead we witnessed single car domination. Martin Truex, Jr., your first win was a beauty. It was the day you were King with no ifs, ands, or buts. It was the flipside of last week’s first time race winner, Casey Mears.

Mears victory was more like a rabbit trick. We watched the cars go around for over four hours and suddenly the race winner was not a stallion but a llama. But Mears’s win was fun and surprising, and of course, a win is a win. In Truex’s case, the only question was whether his equipment had a slight fade in it. Many times the best car all day becomes an average car at the end. Truex somehow grew stronger.

The final re-start began with 40 laps remaining. It took 20 laps before the Bass Pro Shops machine was lapping respectable cars. By the end of the event he had opened up a seven second lead. There was no good fortune or strategy required here. This was a good ole fashioned serious butt-kicking.

THAT ZEN MOMENT: The funny thing about auto racing is that it can take some time to realize that you are witnessing greatness. This is the major difference between driving hard, NASCAR-style, and driving hard, NBA-style.

Recently, in the NBA playoffs, LeBron James scored 29 of his team’s final 30 points in leading his team to a double-overtime win. The domination was obvious and it registered quickly. The greatness that Martin Truex and his team displayed at Dover took longer to understand. It was one of those moments of Zen.

The Autism Speaks 400 was a clean race. Not until Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch battled on lap 271 was there any real drama. The cars ran a crisp pace in a good, clean race. The kind of good, clean racing that over two hours can lead to a trance-like state for the viewer. Throw in a little nap in the middle and by lap 250 you may be in a state of meditative boredom. Until as Jim Morrison once said, “You break on through to the other side.”

Stewart: As usual, he provided some drama
That’s how it was for me. For 250 laps I was watching … then napping … watching … then napping. Finally, I was about to give up. I was going to get off my couch and go do something useful, when that Moment of Zen arrived. “The Attainment of Awakening.”
“Ohmmmm…”
I finally realized, “Hey, this is actually a pretty good race. Martin Truex, Jr. is kicking ass!!” And the endless circles being driven suddenly made a whole lot of sense.

MY CRAZY IDEA: Has any track builder ever made a track in the shape of a figure-8? I imagine this configuration with no intersection. One end of the track would be elevated 20 feet higher than the opposite end. So, there would be an uphill and a downhill slope to the track. I think it would be cool. Right turns and left turns. I believe that my new track, the Siddy Hall International Speedway, should receive two races.

BASS PRO SHOPS: One reason why I’m happy for Team Truex is that Bass Pro Shops is one of my favorite car sponsors. And I don’t even fish. I just enjoy seeing that Bass on the hood of the One-car. And why can’t I fish? I’ve never liked worms. They’re gross.

How can you NOT like a race car that features a BASS?

BRAZIL TV: Watching the race from Sao Paulo, Brazil has its own unique challenges. The race is broadcast in Portuguese. The announcers seem like they are really into the action. However, I don’t know what they are saying. They don’t have their own pit and garage reporters. While the announcers interpret what’s being said, I’m left wondering.

For instance after the Kurt Busch – Tony Stewart melee, Fox interviewed Busch. I noticed that Kurt seemed to talk for quite a while. I can only imagine…

Fox: Kurt, what happened out there?
Busch: Well, we had a good car today. The Miller Lite Dodge wasn’t quite as good as Ryan’s but we felt like we had a top-Ten car until that #@!^%&* 20-car made his &^$%^^% car too wide and had to act like his %$@* pumpkin-mobile is the %^^$$$# King %^&% of the track. Payback is a &&(*%&@!^&&*%$ fatboy.

Am I right?

CONGRATULATIONS DEI: So Junior’s leaving and you can stick a fork in DEI, right? That’s what I’ve been saying. After recent talk about how DEI will continue on and be strong, I gotta admit that I was rolling my eyes and smirking while saying, “Let me show this amazing swamp property that I’ve got for sale. You’ll love it.” Besides those teams that face the pressure of trying to make races each week, no organization is under more pressure than DEI. Great job, Teresa, Max and everybody from Team Truex.

Teresa Earnhardt: Rumors of DEI’s death are greatly exaggerated
(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)
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BILL JR STORY: Here’s a link to an outstanding story on Bill France, Jr. The story appeared in the New Yorker in 2003.

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on May 1, 2007 at 7:40 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)


THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall


NASCAR’S GHOST RIDERS: THE 10 QUIETEST CARS OF 2007

When viewing NASCAR events there are two types of cars that receive the most attention: the race leaders and the wrecking machines.

But what about the rest of the cars? Where are these guys week in and week out? Many of these cars are merely a rumor. To analyze this, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 least noticeable cars this year.

No quacks allowed!! Each car must have raced at least seven of the nine races. This eliminates most of the Toyotas. So Jeremy Mayfield, Brian Vickers, and A.J. Almindinger are out. Ward Burton, Kevin Lepage, Paul Menard and Kenny Wallace are also among the drivers that are not eligible for this list.

Finally, imagine having to write about a boring race car. That’s not easy. Every driver has a website, so I’m supplying some of the spin that those sites are serving up for their driver.
By the way, many of these cars have one thing in common: some were near the front of that parade line that traveled around Talladega for about twenty laps. Single-file racing at ‘Dega? Now that’s boring, man.

1. KYLE PETTY (T-32nd, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): Amazingly, it’s been ten years since Kyle scored a Top-Five. Equally amazing has been his team’s ability to survive. Just for fun, ask a friend if he/she can name Kyle’s primary sponsor. Just don’t ask me because I don’t know.

Petty promises a young fan a Top-43 finish

Petty’s website spin: “Petty Enterprises showed again that they have a very strong restrictor plate program. The duo of Kyle Petty and Bobby Labonte collected two top 20 finishes, but Petty was one of the strongest cars all afternoon … had a strong car throughout the day. The Billy Wilburn-led crew started the day 25th and waited to the end to show their cards. Petty was in the lead draft all day, but was cautious in case of the ‘big one.’”

2. REED SORENSON (29th, 9 starts, 1 Top-10): Sorenson finished 24th in points during his rookie year in 2006. Over the final 29 races, he was never higher than 20th or lower than 25th in the overall standings. Man, that’s boring. But in a good way. Late at Talladega, when Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr. broke out of the single-file line to form a new freight train, it was Sorenson who jumped in front of this pack and broke their momentum.



Sorenson prepares for life after racing

Sorenson’s website spin: – “Reed Sorenson drove a cautious race at Talladega Superspeedway, running near the rear of the field for much of the event to hopefully avoid the huge wrecks that are typical for restrictor-plate races.”

3. TONY RAINES (22nd, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): The Dallas Cowboy QB tandem of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach are part owners of a boring race car. But again, in a good way. No wrecks. They could spice things up by subbing Tony Romo for Tony Raines. This is my favorite website spin from this list. The writer is madder than a wet hen.
Raines’ website spin: – “No Drafting Help Equals 22nd-Place Finish for Raines”. “On Lap 181, Raines was in ninth place. On Lap 182, Raines was in 20th-place. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet “The Draft.” After being in the top-10 for nearly 20 laps, Raines was going backward as his competitors slipstreamed past him.”

4. JOE NEMECHEK (28th, 8 starts, 1 Top-10): Nemechek’s season was defined early on by his ability to make races on his qualifying speed. Front Row Joe went 4-for-5 and did an excellent job of making his team viable. However, now we are entering Race number ten and it’s time to admit that Joe has been rather dull. Nemechek’s website spin: – Joe has his own myspace page. It was last updated on March 10th, so there is no spin. Joe humors readers by actually answering the myspace part about sexual orientation! Joe’s “Straight”, everyone! Wooo-hoooo!!

5. ELLIOTT SADLER (15th, 9 starts, 1 Top-10): How is Sadler only three spots out of the Chase? Wouldn’t it be funny if he won this year’s championship? The guy hasn’t been seen all year and he’s in the hunt.
Sadler’s website spin: – “Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler posted top-15 finishes Sunday in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Both drivers led laps on the 2.66-mile oval and demonstrated on several occasions their Dodge Chargers had the muscle to move to the front with relative ease. A late-race caution extended the race beyond the scheduled 188 laps and probably cost the pair a chance at top-10 finishes.”

Misery loves company: Sadler and Jarrett

6. JOHNNY SAUTER (T-32nd, 8 starts, 1 Top-10): Sauter is not only battling Kyle Petty for 32nd in points, he is also waging a silent war to top this list. However, a recent top-ten at Phoenix plus a wreck at Talladega drops Johnny to sixth. Sauter and teammate Jeff Green have once swapped sponsors on their hoods. Did you notice?

Talladega wreck knocked Johnny Sauter’s earwax askew

Sauter’s website spin: – “Johnny Sauter and Team Yellow Racing saw a strong performance go awry when the Aaron’s 499 went into “overtime” with a green-white-checkered finish. Sauter was running in the 18th position when the field took the final green flag at lap 190, but never made it back around.”

7. DALE JARRETT (37th, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): This year Dale Jarrett is known for three things. He drives for Toyota. He’s got good TV ads. He’s out of provisionals. So we may not be seeing much more of Dale this year. Oh wait, we haven’t seen him all year. Except during commercials.
Jarrett’s website spin: – “The struggles for Team UPS continued on race day in Talladega as Dale Jarrett reported an engine problem on the first lap of the Aaron’s 499. Thirty-eight laps later the day was over for Jarrett and the UPS Team as the result of an engine failure. ‘It is a bad end to a bad weekend,’ Jarrett said briefly after getting out of the race car. ‘It’s disappointing, frustrating for me and the team.'”

8. RICKY RUDD (34th, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): I’m certain that Rudd belongs on this list because I love Snickers bars. In fact, my favorite weak-ass line to a girl in a bar is, “You look like a Snickers bar to me. I just wanna tear the wrapper right off you.” It’s mine. It’s a Siddy Hall original. Go ahead and use it.

DO NOT DISTURB: He’s in a zone

Rudd’s website spin: – “Late Wreck Spoils Strong Run For Rudd.” “As fate would have it Rudd and his crew would have to put their dreams of victory away for another week.”

9. ROBBY GORDON (27th, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): The biggest upset is including Robby Gordon on this list. Robby’s been pretty quiet. Not wrecking a lot and not shooting his mouth. What’s up with him? Robby, go back to being a trouble-maker. Boring is bad.
Gordon’s website spin: – “Robby Gordon and the No. 7 team traveled to Alabama this weekend for the running of the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway. After leading final practice on Friday afternoon, the team was eager for another solid finish to continue this season’s momentum. As luck would have it, a blown engine would ruin the No. 7 team’s chances for a solid finish for the season debut of the Menards/Mapei paint scheme and relegate them to a 41st place finish.”

Robby taunts Mikey: “I’ll race you- my feet against your slow wheels!”

10. J.J. Yeley (21st, 9 starts, 0 Top-10): What saves Yeley is that Interstate Battery paint job. You can’t miss that. One of my favorite moments of the season was listening to an MRN radio broadcast when Yeley came in for a green-flag stop. One of the announcers, I think it was Winston Kelley, yelled, “JAAAY JAAAY YAAAYLEE.” By the time he got his name out Yeley was long gone. I love MRN, they do a great job. Yeley’s website spin: – “At times Yeley would charge to the front, but in typical Talladega fashion, he would get shuffled to the rear of the field on the very next lap.”

Yeley: Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on April 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary by longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

2007: THE YEAR OF THE DEBRIS CAUTION

Among the most commonly uttered words during this 2007 NASCAR season have been “Car of Tomorrow,” “Go-or-Go-Home Car” and “Caution is out for debris on the racetrack.” Here are some Fast Facts regarding this year’s cautions:

· 16 of 71 Cautions have been for debris, or oil on the track (22.5%).
· Las Vegas and Martinsville combined for 22 Cautions, none for debris.
· The remaining six races had 16 of 49 Cautions for debris (32.7%, and nearly three per race)

Three of the year’s eight races have been dominated by Debris Cautions. They are California, Atlanta, and last week’s race, Phoenix.

CALIFORNIA (3 of 9 Cautions for Debris): The final Debris Caution appeared with 23 laps remaining. Without this interruption, Jimmie Johnson may have four wins on the year. After re-shuffling the deck, he lost his lead to eventual race winner, Matt Kenseth.

ATLANTA (4 of 6 Cautions for Debris): Only 14 laps remained when “debris” was spotted on the track. This helped create the Jimmie Johnson – Tony Stewart duel where Johnson prevailed.

PHOENIX (4 of 6 Cautions for Debris): Despite only two wrecks, the race never saw a complete cycle of green flag pit-stops.

Listening to the radio broadcast of the Phoenix race became almost comical. After the third caution and the second for debris, nice guy radio announcer Barney Hall said, “Well, it’s good to have two of these cautions being for debris. That’s better than cars wrecking.” I didn’t fully agree but I respect and enjoy Barney Hall’s broadcasts so much that I found myself nodding my head in agreement.

OK, so we’re exaggerating — slightly.

However, when the fourth Debris Caution appeared things got sort of funny. Nobody would explain why the caution was out. Through the airwaves you could hear the announcers slapping themselves in the forehead and shaking their heads. They couldn’t bring themselves to admit what was going on. They simply went to a commercial and listeners were left to figure out that the caution was for debris. Well, that wasn’t difficult.

“Debris Caution” could be understood as a metaphor for “Boring Race.” As the stakes in NASCAR racing continue to grow, the organization has appeared to paint itself into a corner with its racetrack selection. California and Phoenix consistently provide viewers with dull races. Why? Because there’s too much room in the corners at these tracks. These are tracks that were built to accommodate open-wheel racing. They are not true stock car racing tracks.

Typical NASCAR fan when told today’s race would be run on another D-shaped oval


In NASCAR’s quest to conquer markets they’ve compromised on the type of track that they’ll run on. Essentially, any track will due provided that it meets certain criteria such as location and seating – that is, things that have nothing to do with the quality of a race. Thus, when the races suffer, the Debris Caution comes out.

The same thing is true for the Brickyard 400. This track was never intended for stock car racing. But after years of suffering through an inferiority complex with Indy Cars, NASCAR fans eagerly embraced a chance to race at the Holy Grail of American motorsports. What’s sad is that in the same town sits a great racetrack, the O’Reilly Raceway Park (formerly known as the Indianapolis Raceway Park).

Do you want to watch a boring drag race or do you want to watch some rubbin’ in the corners?

“Wake me when they wave the checkered flag”

A better drag race is the NHRA. NASCAR is all about the corners. A straightaway is just an excuse to reach the next turn. The sooner that turn arrives, the better.

Including Atlanta in the list of “Caution for Debris” tracks is really sad. There is no way it should make this list. It’s inconceivable. It earned its inclusion for a different reason though. It’s not because there is too much room in the corners of Atlanta. It’s because there are too many tracks built like Atlanta.

The 1.5 mile D-shaped oval tracks are sprouting up everywhere like mushrooms after a rainstorm. It’s the NASCAR cookie-cutter track. The drivers and crews have mastered the layout. Drivers can navigate it with their eyes closed.

This year’s Atlanta race came on the heels of the Las Vegas race, another cookie-cutter track. The Vegas track had a new surface, creating a challenge for the drivers. After going from Vegas to Atlanta, the latter’s once-treacherous speeds seemed like a Sunday drive.

Part of the answer to all of this is simple. O. Bruton Smith or Brian France need to build another Rockingham. NASCAR has failed to replicate what was the finest racetrack in the business.

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on April 17, 2007 at 1:22 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary from longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)


THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

SAVE THE DIECAST ON THE CHEEZ-IT MACHINE

We love our NASCAR paint schemes. They give the sport their color and they give the teams their uniforms. Think of all the great cars that have circled the tracks throughout the years. The Tide car. The Texaco Havoline machine. Your Favorite Beer Machine. STP. DuPont. GM Goodwrench. Spam. And on and on.

We love ‘em so much that we make and sell miniature replicas of the cars. They are collector items. On this note I must say that die-casters shouldn’t bother cranking out the 5-Car – Kyle Busch’s Cheez-It machine. The one he drove in Texas.

The 5-Car usually sports Tony the Tiger on the hood. You know how it looks. The yellow and red swirls on the doors with a blue background. Tony on the hood, grinning like your favorite uncle. It’s not the greatest paint job in NASCAR. It’s a little busy. Anyhow, Kellogg’s decided that they wanted Cheez-Its on the hood at Texas. Fair enough. One problem though. When Kyle Busch went to the back-up car, the paint job turned into a hybrid. They left the Tony the Tiger paint job over the entire car save for the orange astro-blast Cheez-It hood.

What would Mr. Blackwell say about Busch’s car wreck of a car?

That’s like combining plaids with polka dots. And at 200 MPH, the orange of the Cheez-Its mixed with the swirls of yellow, red and blue made Busch’s car look like a super-sonic frog-in-a-blender.

It’s no wonder Kyle Busch ran over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tony Stewart spins, Junior hits the binders and Busch, rather than doing the same, recognizes a chance to end his misery. So he plowed into the back of Little E.

Afterwards, everybody wondered, “Where’d Kyle Busch go? His car is repaired and he needs to drive some more. Where’d he go?” Folks, he was hiding himself in shame because he was done driving the ugliest car in the history of NASCAR.

APOLOGIES TO JEFF BURTON: C’mon you detractors. You know who you are. It’s time to say that you’re sorry for ripping on Jeff Burton’s lack of aggressiveness. Most fans will recall the ending from race #5 at Bristol. Kyle Busch towed Burton around the track as they ran 1-2. On the final lap Burton failed to lay a glove on Busch. He had an opportunity to give Kyle the ‘ole “Bump ‘n Run,” which could have won Burton the race.

Burton: Erring on the side of caution OK at Bristol

The original criticism towards Burton was unfair. Just two weeks prior to Bristol, the same two guys dueled at the finish of the Las Vegas Busch race. Jeff Burton won that race and there was a lot of sheet metal damage done to Busch’s car in that skirmish. If Burton had tangled two times with Kyle Busch in just a 15-day period, while winning both times, Burton would have paid too big a price down the line. You cannot take a guy out twice in a row like that. Burton would have been paying for it until the day he retired or got killed with repeated “paybacks” from the young buck.

That Jeff Burton-Kyle Busch battle in Las Vegas was an awesome race finish. To check it out, here’s a You Tube clip.

FRUSTRATING FOX: One of the great pleasures of watching a NASCAR race is the proximity that television provides to the drivers and crew chiefs during the race. Consider when David Ragan, J.J. Yeley, and Ricky Rudd wrecked on the first lap. I would have expected Fox to interview those guys. Apparently, they aren’t important enough. Which is disappointing.

Essentially, anytime anything happens to anyone, it should be covered. If the 28th place car is making an unscheduled pitstop or goes behind the wall, then there should at least be a split screen showing this. Changes in a race come quickly and suddenly. It’s always news. Following these pitstops and talking to those teams is always worthwhile. It’s not just about Dale, Jeff, Jimmie and Tony. Especially with the proliferation of fantasy NASCAR.

I’m convinced that the producers of TV sports are bored out of their skulls. During the Lap One wreck as Ricky Rudd’s Snickers car was sliding through the grass and about to make impact with David Ragan, Fox switched to Dale Jarrett’s in-car camera and we missed the collision. The same with Mike Bliss’ wreck. He hit two walls and all we saw was Bliss limping away (and no interview). I bet the radio gang covered it better.

What’s painful, however, was being forced to watch Jeff Burton’s wife, Kim, over the final two laps on a split-screen. At times our choices were Kim Burton to the left and Jeff Burton’s in-car camera to the right. We had lost perspective of what was happening on the track. It was taken away from us. Finally when Burton took the Checkers, we watched Kim jump around like she had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right. Awesome.

“That’s my hubby!” (yeah, and who CARES?)

Nothing makes me feel more like a weenie than watching the reactions of so-called famous non-participants. For instance, in NFL games we’re forced to look at Washington Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, and his entourage responding to a field goal. Pleeeeze. The same for driver’s wives. We have our own emotions that we are experiencing, thank you.

RACING ROIDS: There goes NASCAR’s clean slate in the steroid department. Stone Cold Steve Austin was honored with the Grand Marshall duties at the Texas race. I’m totally convinced that people don’t care about steroids. You can look at just about any sport and the proof is in the pudding. We just keep watching. It doesn’t affect us. Should we just legalize it with restrictions? I remember when I was a kid during the 1976 Olympics. The Communists used steroids. They were clearly the Bad Guys and we were the Good Guys. So what does that make us now?

Austin: Maybe Barry Bonds was unavailable?

QUICK STATS: Many teams are still dog-paddling for survival by trying to stay in the Top-35. More than meets the eye. Consider Ryan Newman, who currently sits 20th in points. Newman is exactly halfway between 16th and 33rd place. He’s 100 points from each of those two spots.

The final eight teams in the top-35 are separated by only 32 points. Michael Waltrip’s 55-car sits 424 points out of 35th place. Woooo-hoooo.

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on April 10, 2007 at 6:35 am

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary by longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

Earnhardt’s Dilemma: Saint Peter Ain’t a Race Fan

Dale Earnhardt stood looking down at the clouds near his feet. He was listening to a Saint Peter lecture, one that Earnhardt had nearly memorized by now. Saint Peter was saying, “From here I send a person up to the Kingdom of Heaven, or down to the eternal Sea of Fire. Your case is rare, Mr. Earnhardt. A man like you could spend eternity in Hell…”

Satan swooped by while hollering, “He’s mine! He’s mine! Dale Earnhardt will look splendid with a pair of horns. I have special plans for him.”

Saint Peter continued, “For some reason many people prayed for you after your death. So we’re allowing you more time to explain yourself. Perhaps some witnesses will arrive who can testify on your behalf about your Goodness.”

Dale Earnhardt lifted his head towards Saint Peter and said, “When Richard Childress hired Chocolate Myers, I said ‘Thank God.’”

Saint Peter quietly shook his head. He said, “Those are words. How about your actions, your aggressive driving?”

“Like I’ve said before, that Terry Labonte wreck at Bristol…that was one of them racin’ deals.”

“Which Terry Labonte wreck at Bristol, Mr. Earnhardt?”

“The first one,” replied Earnhardt. “The second one, Terry said something to his spotter, who told my spotter, who told me something nasty about my Mama. It was all an accident.”


“… that Terry Labonte wreck at Bristol…that was one of them racin’ deals.”

Saint Peter wasn’t moved. He said, “Mr. Earnhardt, of all your dirty deeds there is one that requires explaining. 1995. Daytona. The IROC race. On the final lap of that race heading towards Turn 3 you sent the race leader, Al Unser, Jr. head-first into the wall. And again, I must emphasize that this was merely an IROC race. What possessed you to behave this way?”

“Well, I thought I was doing everyone a big favor.”

Saint Peter said, “Mr. Earnhardt, we send spirits into the world to watch people like you. Our records indicate that not only did you wreck Al Unser, Jr. but you did so with a smile that could only be described as ‘devilish.’”

Dale Earnhardt’s head sank.

Saint Peter continued, “Mr. Earnhardt, you need some help and you need it quick. I cannot keep delaying my decision on this.”

Earnhardt nodded, took a deep breath and looked out at the long line of the recently deceased leading up to the Pearly Gates. Suddenly, he saw a gray bushy-haired figure that looked familiar. It was Bobby Hamilton. They shook hands. “Bobby, how are you? Where’d you wreck at?”

“No wreck, Dale. Natural causes.”


Bobby Hamilton

“I’m sorry to hear that, Bobby. Hey, I’m so glad to see you. I can really use a drafting partner right now. Can you go tell Saint Peter something nice about me? My eternal salvation is at stake.”

“Sure, Dale. But is he gonna ask me about you wreckin’ me?”

Earnhardt’s eyes widened. “I wrecked you? Where?”

“At Rockingham. I was going for my first win and you destroyed me.”

Earnhardt threw his head back and groaned. “Dang it, Bobby. Sometimes I’d see you in that STP car and I’d have a flashback and think that you were Petty. How is Richard, by the way?”

“Oh he’s fine. He’s the governor of North Carolina.”

“Really?”

“No, not really.” Both men shook their heads and laughed.

Earnhardt said, “Dagnabit, I need someone who can help. Where’s Marcis?”

“Dave is alive and well,” replied Hamilton.

“Who else? Who else? Barney Hall. Naw, Barney’ll live to 100.”

Just then a figure appeared from the crowd. It was a balding, older man with gleaming eyes and a bright smile.

“BP!!! Benny !!” Earnhardt slid to his knees as he greeted Benny Parsons.


“Saint” Benny?

Parsons said, “Hi Dale, Hi Bobby. Look at this place. Oh Man!! Can you believe it!!!?”

Earnhardt said, “Benny, I’m in trouble. I really need your help right now. Can you say something to Saint Peter for me? Something nice?”

Parsons replied, “Why sure. By the way, Dale. Gordon’s only one win away from you last time I checked.”

Earnhardt said, “Well, maybe if I can pass inspection then I can ask God to throw a lightning bolt at him.”

Everybody threw their heads back and laughed as Saint Peter gave Dale Earnhardt a stern glare. Benny Parsons led Earnhardt towards Saint Peter and said, “I have to say that this man, Dale Earnhardt is very special. In fact, he’s the single most finest man that I have ever known. So many people love him.”

Saint Peter paused then said, “Mr. Earnhardt, you are a very lucky man. Praise is one thing, but to be praised by this gentleman is another. I’m looking at this short list in front of me and on it is the name Benny Parsons. Mr. Parsons is about to become a Saint. He’ll be known as Saint Benny.”

He continued, “Mr. Earnhardt, you are a very unusual case. But I think we have a place for you in Heaven. You see, we have a certain group of angels, those who, how shall I say, are borderline angels. Their purpose is actually very simple. They are to fly around and make sure that the other angels have no lint in their wings. We call these angels the Feather Flufferers.”

Earnhardt’s eyes began to narrow and his growing grin began to fade.

Saint Peter went on, “So your job for eternity will be to fluff the feathers and shine the halos of those people that you used to torment.”

“My feathers will need fluffin’,” said the smiling Bobby Hamilton. “A lot.”

Dale Earnhardt stood and thought for a moment. Then he imagined himself fluffin’ the feathers of Al Unser, Jr. He barked, “I’m not fluffin’ no Indy Car—.” Suddenly, Earnhardt’s back stiffened as he felt a boot in his butt.

Saint Benny wrapped his arm around Dale’s shoulder and said, “Dale Earnhardt will be just a terrific Feather Flufferer. Won’t you, Dale?”

Dale only nodded.

Benny continued, “It’s O.K. Dale. You can be fluffin’ Neil Bonnett’s feathers while he’s huntin’ and you can tell him where to point his rifle.”

Saint Peter said, “Dale Earnhardt, you may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

(e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on April 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary by longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

NASCAR CELEBRATING VS. THE NO FUN LEAGUE

NASCAR fans have been blessed with a pair of white-knuckle battles between the circuit’s heavyweights in recent weeks. At Atlanta, it was Jimmie Johnson versus Tony Stewart. The defending champ Johnson, pulled the muscle move of the young season by pinching Stewart’s space and leaving him sucking his CO2 in the final laps of that one.

Johnson retained his crown at Martinsville too, as he held off Jeff Gordon in the final laps of that race. In both cases, the loser’s frustration showed afterwards as guys who usually win were feebly explaining why Jimmie Johnson was performing spinning burnouts for the crowd while they were experiencing the burn of losing a major battle. Second place never felt so bad.

One great aspect of these and other drivers is that if they win, they don’t hide their enjoyment. Jimmie Johnson does lots of burnouts. Tony Stewart meets the fans by climbing the fence. Then there is Carl Edwards who does his crazy backflip off his car.

From left: Edwards, Johnson, and Stewart let it all hang out after a win

More and more often we’re seeing the NASCAR version of a Victory Dance. Not that long ago, it seemed like the Victory Lane celebration was anti-climatic. The winning car would pull in, the Beverage-of-the-Week would be placed on the roof. The driver would stand on the car for a few moments and splatter a meager 32-ounce sports drink on the crowd and that was it. Whoopee.

While celebrating is on the increase in NASCAR, the NFL in recent years has been going the other way, thus earning the nickname, the No Fun League. Too much dancing, waving pom-poms or talking on your cell phone after scoring a touchdown will result in a penalty and/or fine. Countless times I’ve listened to fans and announcers say, “When a player scores he should act like he’s done it a lot and just hand the ball to the official.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

Barry Sanders used to do that here in Detroit. He’d score a touchdown and he behaved like a shy kid. It became vaguely deflating when your star player did not show any excitement or emotion. After all, isn’t that a part of what leadership entails?

Let it hang out, show your emotions. One thing I’ve always admired about Jeff Gordon is that he never gets bored with winning. He’s won 75 times and each time he’s the happiest guy on the planet. We saw the flip-side of that this week at Martinsville. Gordon failed to win when he had the best car. How often does that happen? He was madder than a bull with a bee in its ear. That’s one reason that Gordon’s so great. He’s gotta win.

The athlete in another sport that reminds me of Jeff Gordon is hockey’s Wayne Gretzky. Both dominated their sport at a young age against much older competition. And of course, they’ve both dominated at the pro level. I remember seeing Wayne Gretzky for the first time in person and my jaw almost hit the ground. Not because he was good, but because at first glance he looked lousy. He’s the last guy you’d pick to have on your team. He was skinny and he skated funny; he didn’t look right. But pretty quickly you realized that he was a magician on skates. He was hockey’s Houdini.

Wayne Gretzky had one important characteristic that he shares with Jeff Gordon: Gretzky loved scoring goals, just as Gordon loves winning races. I mean, Gretzky LOVED it. He scored the most goals ever and every time he’d have a huge grin and took time to celebrate it. He would never get bored with scoring goals. It never even became slightly routine for him. Jeff Gordon is the same way with a race car and winning races. That’s one reason why he has 75 wins in his back pocket.

Gretzky (left) and Gordon have more in common than you think

Speaking of NASCAR Victory Dances, a guy who created a good one, Alan Kulwicki, passed away so tragically about 14 years ago. His so-called “Polish Victory Lap” was a stroke of genius as he drove around the track in the opposite way, making right-hand turns so he could wave to the fans. Alan was only able to enjoy his amazing 1992 championship for less than five months. That title should rank among the great single-season accomplishments in the history of American sports. To see a video tribute to Alan Kulwicki please visit this link.


Kulwicki: right turns only after wins

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall at: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)