And the dog ate my homework

I really don’t know where to start. Maybe with a (quick) apology for not updating this blog as often as I should. Yes, yes, I know. I had cancer and that’s as good an excuse as any for not keeping up with one’s responsibilities. And writing this blog for you, my friends out there, is a responsibility I do take seriously.

So, why then haven’t I been dazzling you all with my wit and wisdom like I should?

First of all, I started writing for Bleacher Report. It’s a really different kind of sports web site that uses a mixture of professional and amateur writers. The pros on the site are some of the best in the business and I feel honored to share a site with them. The amateurs are all great sports fans, some have good writing skills but little storytelling skills, other have great storytelling skills but lack good writing skills. Bleacher Report has a protocol for helping those amateur writers who lack the writing skills by offering up a sort of writer’s university. Even I got involved with the writer’s university because while I may call myself a professional, I will always be open to learning and the Bleacher Report university taught me some really good stuff and made me a better writer.

The editor who hired me at Bleacher Report told me he wanted me to be an analyst, not a reporter, which was something different from what I had been used to while writing about NASCAR. I had written plenty of analytical, opinionated columns, but I’d always considered myself a reporter at heart. I’m still a reporter, but to be honest, I like playing the role of an analyst a lot more. I write a lot of slideshows, which at first I balked at because on an easy glance they look lightweight and forgettable. But they’re not. I spend a good deal of time writing my slideshows and put a lot of thought into each slide and I think you’ll enjoy them. Please check them out when you can.

http://bleacherreport.com/nascar

The folks at Bleacher Report know about Sledgehammer and they’re fine with it, so long as I don’t publish the same stuff in both places. That will never happen. I can say things here that I could never say over there. And I write about other things besides NASCAR here, although my racing stuff in general is why most of you come here to read.

I’ll make this short, like it should be. A quick recap…

My cancer is gone. Two scans in a row and nothing. Nada. A couple of dried out, tiny lymph nodes, decimated by the toxic chemicals they use in chemotherapy into the tiny, shrunken dots on a scan they are today. I feel good. My weight is back up, but nowhere near what it was pre-cancer this third time around. And my hair is slowly growing back. What I wouldn’t give for my ’80s mullet again!

God has blessed me once again with the gift of living and believe me, every day I can roll over and shut off the alarm is a day I know will be lived to its absolute fullest, with little time wasted with all the crap I used to think was important.

And so much is going on in the world of motorsports.

The women have finally taken over the NHRA, even as the motorsports and mainstream media ignore that story completely. I’ll have something to say about that in the next week.

Gene Haas is absolutely out of his mind for wanting an F1 team. Either he’s OK with spending a good deal of his own personal wealth in starting this new all-American team based in Charlotte, or he’s got an ace up his sleeve in the form of an half dozen very solid business partnerships who see the b2b value of being in F1 and are willing to help ol’ Gene offset the ridiculous price of admission into what most of the world consider to be the No. 1 motorsport.

NASCAR is better than ever and no one is watching. I wrote about that at Bleacher Report. But what I didn’t get into over there is that the network television broadcast has to dramatically change in order to keep up with the changes in the world of sports entertainment, or be rendered nothing more than the place where NASCAR fans can get a visual on a small part of what is happening at the track. So much more is available online during a race nowadays that during a NASCAR television broadcast the talking heads in the broadcast booth are often the last to know what is really going on.

It’s scary stuff.

Damn, don’t get me started. I promised this one would be short.

If you were once a NASCAR fan and you no longer follow the sport, NASCAR has a name for you. You are a “lapsed” fan. And whatever your reason for not following the racing, it’s bullshit. Stop living in the past. And the folks out there who stopped following IndyCars and haven’t come back? Have you seen the potential roster for this year’s Indy 500? Jacques Villeneuve, John Pablo Montoya and now Paul Tracy! Come on. Stop making excuses and start living. And what’s better living than watching someone cheat death? Believe me, I live that life every day. It’s incredible!

There us much more to write about here…like the non-profit organization I co-founded that will help those who may have cancer with early detection and for those who don’t have it yet, a way out and a way to prevent it. http://www.highperformancevoices.org I will make this come to life and bring it to the hundreds of thousands of race fans across America every weekend throughout the racing season. Stay tuned for this!

Until next time…

Thanks for stopping by.

Storylines heading into Fontana

You can click HERE for a quick link to my newest entry on Bleacher Report.

It’s my take on what to watch for as the Cup series heads west to Fontana this weekend. Enjoy the read!

Thanks for stopping by.

Of Jayski and all things Danica

I appreciate that I’ve got a few hundred people who regularly check this website on a daily basis. Believe me when I tell you it gives me a very warm feeling to know that.

I’ve started writing for Bleacher Report. They’ve asked me to be a NASCAR analyst. I like titles. It always makes things sound so much more official. I like being referred to as a NASCAR analyst. It does make me feel official.

I’m spending a good deal of my time working on the things I write for Bleacher Report, even the slideshows, which the editors love and the readers apparently love even more. I would like to think that I’ve been able to make a difference in the NASCAR content at Bleacher Report with my work. I guess time will tell. But there are a lot of people reading what I write.

NASCAR website Jayski, who I really like and I appreciate for what he does, (offering the best up-to-date, one-stop shop for all things NASCAR) well, Jayski likes what I do here, but he doesn’t pick up on the things I write at Bleacher Report. Maybe that will change at some point. Or maybe I just shouldn’t worry about it.

My current column at Bleacher Report is about NASCAR’s addiction to Danica Patrick. They wouldn’t let me use the word “addiction” in the headline at B/R, so they posed it as a question instead.

I used to be a big-time Danica hater when I was writing for Yahoo! Sports. At first it was genuine. Then after a while my attitude towards her changed, but the editors there liked it so much (because people clicked on my work just to get pissed off at me) that I kept on doing it, even after I had changed my mind about her.

Now that Ms. Patrick has been racing in NASCAR my attitude is one of full support. I want her to do well. It is important for all the women drivers who will follow in her footsteps. There will be a few very good women stock car drivers in our future.

So, please excuse me if I’m not updating this blog as often as I should.

There are so many things to write about that are not NASCAR. For instance, sports car racing needs to attract more fans in America. There are a few things I think IMSA should do to attract the fans it should have.

It bears watching if the NHRA will recover from more than a decade of media neglect. It’s shameful that there are so few major media outlets covering professional drag racing and even more embarrassing that the various NHRA team PR efforts haven’t figured out a way to overcome this problem. Professional drag racing too good to be ignored.

Ah…I wish I could get into it now. Perhaps in the next week or two.

For now, my focus needs to be on my work at Bleacher Report. However, I do expect to find more time to write here. For me, Sledgehammer! is the Zone of Real.

Thanks for stopping by.

Observations for the 2014 Daytona 500

A few thoughts, observations and a questions following the 56th running of the Great American Race:

Was it just me or was the choice of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana the wrong music for driver intros? It’s a bit too ominous for auto racing. It’s almost as if the drivers were about to do battle to the death. Ugh! Maybe something a bit more up tempo next time guys? The way the introductions were staged was pretty lame, too.

Speaking of music...As a NASCAR beat writer for several years I had the opportunity to hear a lot of different versions of our nation anthem. Now, before we go any further, you should know that while I dearly love to hear The Star Spangled Banner, it is a difficult song to sing for most and it does glorify victory in battle. I would prefer our national anthem be America the Beautiful, which is much easier to sing and is about purple mountains majestic and amber waves of grain.

Sorry to get off track. Back to the national anthem. I was wondering if the person who chose the rock band Madison Rising (which bills itself as “America’s Most Patriotic Band”) to do the anthem prior to the Nationwide Race on Saturday auditioned the band’s version prior to hiring them. If you’ve not heard their version of the anthem…

Now that you’ve clicked away from that before the end, you should know that before their unbelievable version of the anthem this past weekend, most observers felt the worst rock version was done by Steven Tyler, sung before the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

I don’t know about you, but Tyler’s version, while a bit out of place for where it was being performed (maybe), at least he didn’t turn it into a really bad rock song like the guys from Madison Rising did. It really is hard to get through their version, isn’t it?

My pick for best rock version? That’s an easy one. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

Hell of a way for Martin Truex Jr. and Todd Berrier, two of the good guys in the sport, to start off the new season, isn’t it?

The hysteria surrounding the return of the No. 3 car was over the top during Speedweeks. At one point, Fox television announcer Chris Meyers actually wondered (aloud) during the pre-race show “Who would the fans be rooting for if the finish of the race came down to the 88 car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the 3 car of Austin Dillon?”

Race fans didn’t have the chance to see such a finish as Dillon was too busy bumping into much of the field. I counted at least three of the big wrecks where the television announcers began with “And it looks like the three car ran into…”

It might be that Dillon’s first 500 in the 3 car was a real eye opener, as he had a “deer in the headlights” look to him in the post-race presser. He’s good though and he’ll be fun to watch the rest of the season.

So will Kyle Larson, who had issues early and often. This year’s rookie crop has some strong talent and is well worth watching. I would guess that six of the eight rookies will end up driving in the Cup series for a decade or more.

You’d think with all the money he has that Jeff Gordon could find a good barber. Doesn’t it seem like he cuts his hair himself? Or could his new hairstyle be hiding something? Like a receding hairline maybe?

If you’re wondering why the Joe Gibbs Racing cars aren’t winning championships look no further than the missteps and mistakes all three teams made during the Daytona 500. Their pit road etiquette leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Did you notice that before she crashed out of the 500, Danica Patrick hit both Richard Petty Motorsports cars?

The rain delay made for two different races. The first one, before the rain, was lame and for a minute, I was afraid it would be another sleeper. But when the rain turned the 500 into a night race, it made for a much better show. I wrote about it for Bleacher Report.

After he drove into victory lane, Earnhardt Jr. climbed from his Chevy and before doing anything else, he hugged and thanked everyone of his crewmen. A real class act! Having Earnhardt Jr. as the 2014 champion would be the shot in the arm that NASCAR is desperately searching for. I’m not sure if this team can get the job done down the stretch, but with this win it looks as though they will get a chance to try.

Postscript

I don’t know what you did during the rain delay on Sunday, but I ended up watching several episodes of Season 2 of the House of Cards. It really was a long day, especially since I was writing a post-race piece for Bleacher Report that I started just before midnight and didn’t file until 1:15 AM.

The wait for the rain to stop and for the track to dry was worth it. It was a fast and exciting race.

When the cars flashed by the camera on the backstretch it was just unbelievable. There was little mention of it during the television broadcast, but I’m sure that for much of the race, the speed of the main pack was well over 200 mph. The speed made the race the kind of edge-of-your-seat entertainment that they need more of in NASCAR.

The real season starts next week on the short track in Phoenix. That’s when we’ll have a better idea of who’s on it in 2014 and who’s not.

Thanks for stopping by.

Predicting the 2014 NASCAR Chase Field or not

I usually don’t do predictions for anything that involves racing. They’re often wrong and usually a great source of embarrassment.

My editor at Bleacher Report.com, where I now write regularly as a NASCAR analyst, asked me to produce a slideshow with my picks for the 16 drivers who will make the Chase this season — even before the Daytona 500!

I think I did a pretty damn good job. Please take a few minutes and check it out:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1968679-preseason-prediction-for-the-2014-nascar-sprint-cup-chase-field

And then leave a comment there or here and let me know how good a job I did, or how badly I screwed up and left out your favorite driver.

Happy Daytona 500 weekend to you! And I will be publishing my post-500 Observations column for Bleacher Report on Monday

Thanks for stopping by.

The Worst Show in Auto Racing

It’s Sunday morning, February 16, 2014 and NASCAR fans across America are about to be bludgeoned by the worst show in auto racing.

Single-car qualifying for the Daytona 500, broadcast live and in living color on big screens across the USA.

Three hours of excruciating boredom with little meaning.

Oh wait. Of course. Someone will make a lap around the high-banked, 2.5-mile tri-oval faster than the other the other 49 entries and have the privilege of leading the field of 43 cars to the green flag next Sunday. Outside of bragging rights, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

It seems that every NASCAR fan remembers the winner(s) of the Daytona 500. Pole winners? Not so much.

We only remember last year’s pole winner because it was Danica Patrick, the first woman to accomplish the feat. She did so by not only going quicker than everyone else, but she edged out Jeff Gordon, who won the pole in both 1996 and 1999, the same year he won the 500.

Gordon’s feat (winning the pole and the race the same year) is a rare one indeed, as only eight drivers have won the Daytona 500 from the somewhat coveted pole position, the last time in 2000 (Dale Jarrett).

The current rules package of the Gen 6 restrictor plate stock car makes racing at places like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway something between a chess match, a poker game, a game of craps and *Who Do You Trust?

*That last reference is to a television game show that ran in the 50s and 60s that once had Johnny Carson as its host. You say you don’t even know who Johnny Carson was? Google him.

Restrictor plate racing in 2014 is all about knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, who’s your BFF for at least a few laps and how much get up and go does your race car have when you pull out from the pack to try and make a pass.

Last night’s Sprint Unlimited was quite the entertaining show, especially the last two segments. It did show how the new rules package will make for an equally (if not more) entertaining show next Sunday during the Daytona 500.

But single car qualifying. I’m not so sure its worth taking a break from binge-watching “House of Cards” but you might want to just check in sometime during the “show.” Thankfully, this is the only race that will still have the dreadful procedure. Group qualifying begins at the next race.

I’m hoping Danica Patrick wins the pole again. At least there’ll be something to write about and it’ll have the rest of America talking about “that girl who drives a stock car” for the week leading up to the big event.

Thanks for stopping by.

“The King” is Wrong; Long Live “The King”

Apparently I’ve raised eyebrows with my Bleacher Report column about Danica Patrick. I published it the very same day that “The King” Richard Petty drew attention by his denigration of Ms. Patrick while at a press event in Canada.

Bottom line here: He’s wrong, I’m right.

Despite all his years in and out of the sport of NASCAR racing, this time Richard Petty is off the mark with his comment about Patrick.

I am not.

Is It Crazy to Call Danica Patrick a Contender for the Daytona 500?

Remember, the column for Bleacher Report.com you just read was written by the same guy who wrote this about Patrick for Yahoo! Sports over five years ago:

Putting Patrick’s Victory in Perspective

I have to admit, that since she moved her show to NASCAR, I have become a Danica Patrick supporter. She’s more talented in a race car than nearly half the field she’s racing against. It takes seat time to make a great race car driver. And while she may never be considered great, over time, she will gain the respect of those haters out there who see her as nothing more than a sophisticated PR machine (as Petty’s son Kyle called her) who doesn’t belong in NASCAR.

Sorry boys and Mr. Petty, but this is 2014 and the girls get to do everything the boys do – and sometimes they do it a lot better.

Thanks for stopping by.


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