By David G. Firestone
Had some great racing in NASCAR this week, but the best story didn’t come from Atlanta Motor Speedway, but rather who DIDN’T make to Atlanta, specifically Team Xtreme Racing. Specifically, they had their car stolen…their RACE CAR stolen. How did that happen?
Bad weather hit Charlotte last week, and the main hauler with pit crew and other racing equipment was sent earlier to avoid it. The car however wasn’t ready, and was transported via pickup with a trailer on the back. The trailer arrived at a hotel in Morrow Georgia, roughly 16 or so miles from Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver met up with the team, and bunked down. During the night, thieves stole the truck, trailer and all from the hotel parking lot. The car was later found in Snellville, Georgia, roughly 36 miles, as was the pickup truck, though the trailer, which had $125,000 worth of racing equipment is, as of this writing, still missing.
It’s easy to understand why it would get stolen. Neither the truck or trailer had any team or sponsor logos printed on it, and the thieves probably thought it was construction equipment, maybe lawn equipment, and thought they could steal and fence the goods. When they realized what they stole, they dumped it on the side of the road. I even understand why the team transported the hauler and car separate from each other. What I don’t get is why Team Xtreme didn’t at least have a backup car. At the very least, you might have have to pull out if you wreck your car in practice, but at least you have SOMETHING. Team Xtreme has said they will have a backup car for Las Vegas this week…glad it took the primary car getting stolen to make that happen.
Some other news and notes from this week…
For the second time in as many races, a driver has hit an unprotected concrete wall during a race. Jeff Gordon was the unlucky driver this time. NASCAR has stated repeatedly that adding SAFR barriers is a top priority, but one has to wonder why this hasn’t been completed as of yet, especially with the safety culture being what it is.
NASCAR has implemented a new rule in the wake of the Jeff Gordon/Brad Keselowski brawl that took place at Texas last year. This new rule is specifically designed to reduce the threat of a brawl by reducing the number of crew members that can come on pit road around a car after a race.
Miller and Penske announced this week that Brad Keselowski will run a throwback scheme at some point this season. The choices are Rusty Wallace’s MGD scheme or Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life scheme. Fans can vote on which scheme they would like to see raced. I would love the gold Miller High Life scheme myself…
Landon Cassill finished both Daytona and Atlanta in last place, becoming the first driver since Glenn Dunaway in 1949 to sweep the first two races of the season in last place. Let’s see if he can pull off the hat trick at Las Vegas next week.
Kurt Busch has agreed to the terms and conditions dictated by NASCAR that he must complete to get reinstated. Busch is currently suspended from NASCAR due to the ruling by a Delaware court that he committed an act of domestic abuse. There is, as of yet, no timetable for his return, or if he will even return in 2015.
Kyle Busch was released from the hospital this week, after his crash at Daytona left him with a badly broken leg. David Ragan moved from Front Row Motorsports to fill in for Busch in his absence. The driver of the #34 CSX Ford for Las Vegas has yet to be determined.
Finally, Nickelodeon has announced that the Kansas race on May 9 will be known as the SpongeBob SquarePants 400.
Brad Keselowski #2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford Fusion-Black and blue could be a great combo, but the blue here is much too light. If the blue were darker, it would earn an A+ grade. This scheme earns a C- grade.
Sam Hornish Jr. #9 Camping World/Medallion Bank Ford Fusion- Green, yellow, and blue is horrible, and the design is even worse. F
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Fifth-Third Bank Ford Fusion-Much smoother look, good color scheme, A+
Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Duracel Chevy SS-Great color scheme, great simple design, A+
Cole Whitt #35 Rinnai Filters Ford Fusion-Same scheme as last year, same A+ grade.
Kyle Larson #42 Energizer Eco Advanced Chevy SS-Same scheme as last year, same D grade
Brett Moffitt #55 Aaron’s 60th Anniversary Toyota Camry- They took the A+ scheme from this year, reversed the color scheme, and added an additional logo on the hood. It works well and will keep the A+ grade.
Everyone has a moment that shapes the rest of our lives for the better. For me, it was joining the TV crew in my sophomore year of high school. For some people, it might seem like the worst point in their lives. Sometimes you have to hit bottom to rise to the top. It might be horrible in the short term, but great in the long run.
Bill Simpson is one of those people. His moment came in 1958. He was drag racing at age 18, and broke both his arms in a crash. When you have both arms in a crash, it gives you time to think. Simpson began to think about a design for a parachute. He came up with a cross design for a parachute, and designed the cross parachute. He tested it on a public road, and was arrested for the stunt. The chute proved effective, and when “Big Daddy” Don Garlitts called, and that’s how Simpson Performance Products was founded.
The X design of drag chute is still in use today. It is so effective, that while there were some minor design changes, including size changes, the basic design hasn’t changed. This is an example used by TJ Zizzo from 2010 to 2013. Zizzo ran two of these chutes on the back of his dragster, and this example is 12 feet by 12 feet. It shows a decent amount of wear, with stains and holes.There is a hole in the center that allows the chute to be deployed, and there is an inventory tag placed here as well. On the cables connecting the chute to the car, there is some extra protection. This is necessary because on top fuel dragsters, the engine is very close to the parachute attachment, and in the event of a fire, the chute will still be able to function. TJ’s example shows some wear on the silver layer. Here is video of the chute in use.
One thing that a lot of non drag racing fans don’t realize is that many drivers pack their own chutes. Race car drivers are control freaks, and so this makes sense. The logic a few drivers use is that if I mess it up, I don’t have anyone to blame for it except myself. Here is a video of Jack Beckman packing his chute, and pro stock driver Rickie Jones explaining how he packs his own chute.
Drag racing chutes are amazing pieces of equipment, and I’m always amazed how it takes only a few people to change the sport as a whole. Next Week, I will continue this discussion with something even more awe inspiring.
By David G. Firestone
The Daytona 500 is behind us, the NASCAR season is underway. The race was great, Joey Logano finally lived up to the lofty expectations set on him when he was a rookie. Jeff Gordon has raced in his last Daytona 500 in his regular career, though I won’t rule out that he might come back for the 500 at some point. All in all it should have been a great weekend for NASCAR, but while the sun shone over Daytona, there was a dark cloud hanging over NASCAR this weekend.
The dark cloud started in November, when allegations against Kurt Busch came to light. Patricia Driscol, Kurt’s ex girlfriend went to the police and alleged that Kurt had assaulted her, during the fall race at Dover in September. Between then and Thursday, a series of court hearing took place. On Monday, Busch was ordered to stay away from Driscoll, as the court had deemed that “an act of domestic abuse had taken place.” As a direct result of that ruling, on Friday, he was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Busch appealed TWICE on Saturday, and lost both appeals, and is now indefinitely suspended from NASCAR.
I stated when the story first broke in November, that I would wait until the facts are fully known before I would take a side. Now that those facts have come to light, I will state the following: Under NO circumstances is domestic abuse ever acceptable! Kurt’s actions are totally unacceptable, and he should be suspended for at least the 2015 season, minimum. I don’t feel bad at all for Kurt, he will lose a lot of money, his career is probably over, and he will face criminal charges, and he deserves it. Anyone who hits a spouse, or children does not deserve sympathy. I don’t feel bad for Busch, Ray Rice, or Chris Brown, because men should NEVER hit women!
NASCAR took some heat in waiting as long as they did, but they said that they would wait for the facts to come out before they made a decision. I think that it was a wise move. They did the same thing with Tony Stewart last year as well. People in this day in age want immediate reactions, immediate suspensions, and immediate discipline. I get that, but doing it fast should never take precedence over doing it right.
With this story in mind, I sat down to watch the Alert Today Florida 300 on Saturday. I was treated to a great race…until lap 113, when there was “The Big One” and Kyle Busch was sent into a concrete wall near turn 2, nearly head on at an estimated 90 MPH, and had to be helped from his car. He was taken to Halifax Medical Center, and was diagnosed with a severe compound fracture in his right leg, as well as a broken foot.
The wall he hit was a simple concrete wall, no tires, or SAFR barrier. How in the world can there be any track, much less Daytona International Speedway, that has concrete walls with no energy absorbing materials? I get the $500 a foot price tag is a bit hefty, but when something like this happens, drivers and fans demand answers, and action. As such, there will be improvements starting today at Daytona, but how many more times does this have to happen, seriously? How many top shelf drivers will be sidelined with injuries because of cost cutting? WHEN WILL THIS STOP? I hate having to call out racing sanctioning bodies for seemingly stupid safety issues, I really do, but why does this keep happening? I wanted to write a story about how great Daytona was, and how much fun I had, but I can’t! I’ll finish this article now, as I’m too angry to finish.
By David G. Firestone
Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna/McDonald’s Chevy SS-Love the fade, the look is really smooth, the colors work well, A+
Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Peak Chevy SS- Same scheme as last year, same F grade.
Landon Cassill #40 Cars For Sale Chevy SS- Same Scheme as last year, same C- grade
Kyle Larson #42 White Target Chevy SS-Same scheme as last year, same B- grade.
Brian Scott #62 Shore Lodge Chevy SS-Good color scheme, much too over designed, it looks terrible, B-
Josh Wise #98 Phoenix Construction Ford Fusion-Simple, smooth design, with a great color scheme, A+
I get tired of just doing paint schemes, and I wanted to do something different, but I had no idea what to do. Then I came across this, and it gave me an idea. I’m gonna grade these helmets in order. The grading will be different from car schemes, since racing helmets have different design standards to me than cars.
Jeff Gordon-The red looks really good, the carbon fiber design looks really good, I don’t like the white, so I’ll give it a B+
Dale Earnhardt Jr.-The matte black with silver designs looks really good, but the Nationwide logo looks so out of place. It looks awkward, and it takes an A scheme to a B-
Trevor Bayne-The blue design would look good by itself, as would the red and white design, but the two schemes together look forced and awful. D-
Aric Almirola-Great design, great color scheme, A+
Brad Keselowski-The black carbon fiber design with logos on it looks really good. A+
Kyle Busch-The racing helmet design would work without the M&M’s logos all over the place, and vice versa, but the color scheme is good, so I’ll give it a C+
Matt Kenseth-Great design, great color scheme, A+
Kyle Larson-Great design, great color scheme, and I do like the subtle red Target logo. A+
Kevin Harvick-The red and gold Anheuser Busch design looks good, and the logos on the white banner across the front works very well too. A+
Kasey Kahne-Like the color scheme, and the design is decent, A
Jimmie Johnson-I like the overall design, the color scheme is good, though I do think that the silver should be darker. Still it’s an A design.
Josh Wise-I liked the whole Dogecoin thing when it started at Talladega last year, but it’s getting to the point where it’s just overdone. The color scheme is good, the adjectives on the back are interesting, but it’s just too silly to earn anything above a C-
Greg Biffle-Black with silver designs has been done, but the bugs that look like they are crawling over the helmet make it work, and it works quite well. I’ll give it an A
Austin Dillon-Good color scheme, I like the bird design on the side, a bit over done, but still an A scheme.
Danica Patrick-One of the only helmets where the color scheme does not match the sponsor. Danica has worn this design for quite a while, and it looks great! A+
Denny Hamlin-The helmet matches the car, and earns a matching A+ grade.
Tony Stewart-One of the most underrated designs in gasoline history, the Mobil Pegasus takes the lead in this design. I like the numbers and all white design as well, A+
Jamie McMurray-I gave Kyle Larson credit for the subtle Target logos, but this design is overdone. The subtle Golden Arches take an A design to a C- design, which not even a great color scheme can help.
Joey Logano-Good color scheme, and I love the vintage hot rod on the side, and will give it an A+
Paul Menard-Digital camo doesn’t look good on the side of a race car, and doesn’t look good on the side of a helmet either. I’ll give it a D+ for a good color scheme, and a cool spider.
Ryan Newman-My big complaint about Ryan Newman’s Cat scheme is too much white. Black and yellow is a great color scheme, but too much white takes it from an A to a B-.
Brian Vickers-Metallic gold is under used on race cars, and I’m shocked that it is, this helmet looks really good. It’s a A grade.
Martin Truex Jr.-Digital camo doesn’t look good on the side of a race car, and doesn’t look good on the side of a helmet either. I’ll give it a D+ for a good color scheme.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-The subtle nut logos work well, the color scheme is good, can’t say anything bad, A+
By David G. Firestone
The 57th running of the Daytona 500 is tomorrow! I know, I can’t keep my excitement to myself either! Jeff Gordon is on the pole, the 43 car field has been set, and tomorrow, the 2015 NASCAR season starts. The major change to the format will be on pit road, where a camera system will be used to help catch penalties. This system was tested during the Chase last year, and supposedly proved itself very effective, so we will see how this works.
The prize these drivers are all racing for, aside from the prestige, is the Harley J. Earl trophy. Earl was the second commissioner of NASCAR, designer of the Corvette, and designed the futuristic Firebird I in 1953, a small model of which adorns the trophy. It was first awarded in 1959 to Lee Petty. The original trophy is housed in The Daytona 500 Experience, and is 5 feet wide, by 4 feet tall. The winner is awarded a miniature version, which is 18 by 22 inches, and has a miniature version of the Firebird car mounted on top.
Interestingly, NASCAR, a multibillion, multinational group relies on one man, and one man only, to make the trophy. His name is John Liba, and he is based in Omaha, Nebraska. His first attempt was in 1998, and was awarded to Dale Earnhardt Sr. The first trophy he made was on a marble base, which was much too heavy, so he switched to black acrylic. To make the miniature Harley J. Earl trophy, it takes 6 weeks, of 12 hour work days, and that does not include plating the trophy.
I’ve always found it interesting how NASCAR uses John Liba to make the Harley J. Earl trophy, but uses Tiffany and Company to make the Sprint Cup Trophy. I like the idea of leagues using individuals, not large companies for trophies and awards. It’s the same as Boffey Silversmiths of Montreal engraving the names on the Stanley Cup after each season. The most renowned trophy in the sport of hockey goes to an individual to get engraved. That just blows me away.
When I went to the Penske Racing Museum, I saw the special version made in 2008. This was done to commemorate the 50th running, and was plated in gold rather than silver.
That race was won by Ryan Newman, and is still on display at the museum. The car he ran is also there, and interestingly was signed by the crew after the race.
This is the biggest event on the NASCAR calender, and always lives up to the hype. The ending of the race is like the 9th inning in the final game of the World Series. The last 2.5 miles of the race is nail biting. Anything can and has happened during that final lap. It has seen legends achieve their lifelong dreams, and rookies stamp their place in history. Legends like Gordon, Earnhardt, Petty, Parsons, Andretti, Foyt, Allison, Waltrip, Yarborough, Harvick, Johnson, Jarrett, and Kenseth, as well as unknowns like Cope, Burton, Marlin, and Bayne have visited victory lane. The big question is…who will join them in 2015.
Here is how the field will line up
Did Not Qualify
By David G. Firestone
The 2015 Sprint Unlimited is behind us, Matt Kenseth won the event, and it was a great race. Something I’m disappointed about is that there aren’t more special schemes for the Sprint Unlimited. There were 25 teams in the Sprint Unlimited, only Danica Patrick ran a special scheme this year. I would love to see every driver have some kind of special scheme for the Sprint Unlimited and the All-Star Race.
Paint schemes aside, I love the Sprint Unlimited. As it does every year, the format changes, and this year, the eligibility changes as well. I do like the 25 car format, and it did lead to some great pack racing. The racing was great, and what I love about the Sprint Unlimited is that it starts around the same time as Truck Days in baseball, which means spring is around the corner.
It’s a great day to stay inside, drink tea, and write. I live in Chicago, and as of right now, 8:11 am, it’s 9 degrees outside, and there is a fresh coating of snow. Winter sucks! It’s cold, waiting for a bus is horrible, and there isn’t much to do anyways. Chicago has a lot of great things to do, especially on a holiday, but if it’s too cold to go outside, you can’t do them. So I’m gonna spend this day off writing, doing laundry, playing with the cats, and drinking tea.
I’d like to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while. We all encounter certain design aspects in life that have explanations, but those explanations are not readily available. One of these examples is why are Italian restaurants always dimly lit?
Chain restaurants aside, every Italian restaurant I have ever eaten at was dimly lit. Normally, the way it works is that the more expensive the restaurant, the dimmer it is. I have yet to eat at a dimly lit McDonald’s. But every Italian restaurant, from the cheap ones to the high end ones is dimly lit. Every one is dimly lit…Why? What I’d like to know is why. I have to believe there is a reason every Italian restaurant across the country that I have eaten is is dimly lit, but why is it that way?