The Great American Race-The Daytona 500

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Row 1

Jeff Gordon #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe’s Chevy SS

Row 2

Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Nationwide Chevy SS

Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota Camry

Row 3

Joey Logano #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion

Carl Edwards #19 Aaris Toyota Camry

Row 4

Tony Stewart #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy SS

Greg Biffle #16 Ortho Home Defense Ford Fusion

Row 5

Clint Bowyer #15 5 Hour Energy Toyota Camry

Martin Truex Jr. #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy SS

Row 6

Kevin Harvick #4 Budweiser Chevy SS

Reed Sorenson #44 Golden Corral Chevy SS

Row 7

Kasey Kahne #5 Farmers Insurance Chevy SS

Ryan Blaney #21 Motorcraft/Quicklane Ford Fusion

Row 8

Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna/McDonald’s Chevy SS

Justin Allgaier #51 Brandt Chevy SS

Row 9

Landon Cassill #40 Snap 24-7 Fitness Chevy SS

Mike Wallace #66 Crazy Vapors/X8 Energy Gum Toyota Camry

Row 10

Cole Whitt #35 Speed Stick Gear Ford Fusion

Danica Patrick #10 GoDaddy Chevy SS

Row 11

Paul Menard #27 Menard’s/Peak Chevy SS

Ryan Newman #31 Cat Chevy SS

Row 12

Michael McDowell #95 Thrivent Financial Ford Fusion

Kurt Busch #41 Haas CNC Chevy SS

Row 13

J.J. Yeley #23 Dr. Pepper/Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota Camry

David Gilliland #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion

Row 14

Michael Annett #46 Pilot/Flying J Chevy SS

David Ragan #34 KFC Ford Fusion

Row 15

Kyle Larson #42 Target Chevy SS

Austin Dillon #3 Dow Chevy SS

Row 16

Ty Dillon #33 Cheerios Chevy SS

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Fastenal Ford Fusion

Row 17

Aric Almirola #43 Smithfield Ford Fusion

Michael Waltrip #55 Aaron’s Toyota Camry

Row 18

Matt Kenseth #20 Dollar General Toyota Camry

Johnny Sauter #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota Camry

Row 19

Trevor Bayne #6 Advocare Ford Fusion

Sam Hornish Jr. #9 Twisted Tea Ford Fusion

Row 20

Brad Keselowski #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion

AJ Allmendinger #47 Kroger Chevy SS

Row 21

Casey Mears #13 Geico Chevy SS

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry

Row 22

Bobby Labonte #32 C&J Energy Services Ford Fusion

Did Not Qualify

Alex Bowman #7 Nikko/Toy State Chevy SS

Jeb Burton #26 Live Deals Ford Fusion

Justin Marks #29 American Born Moonshine Toyota Camry

Ron Horniday #30 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevy SS

Brian Scott #62 Shore Lodge Chevy SS

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NASCAR at the National Sports Collectors Convention

By David G. Firestone

While I’m primarily a driver uniform guy, I collect other stuff as well. I like game-worn and game-used memorabilia, space-flown stuff, and Presidential bill pens, amongst other things. Last Saturday, I spent the day at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont Illinois. The NSCC, or “The National” is the biggest sports memorabilia show in the United States, and features hundreds and hundreds of sports memorabilia dealers from all over the country.

I go to these conventions on a regular basis, and something that I noticed in recent years is that racing memorabilia is present at these shows more and more, as the racing memorabilia market expands. I go to these shows with an open mind. What I don’t want to do is to go there wanting something specific, and pass up the chance to get an item that I really want. I find myself making offers and deals on items I would never would have dreamed I would buy. I went to a show in March, and came away with this Don Kessinger 1968 MLB All-Star Game trophy/coffee pot.kessenger-trophy-2

While racing memorabilia has a bigger part in these shows, what I DON’T see are driver suits. These shows, especially the National, features dealer and stores from all over the country, and they can only bring so much of their inventory to these shows. Transporting a driver suit from one state to another for a sports memorabilia convention, can be problematic at best. I have however seen driver shoes, gloves, helmets, sheet metal, and pit crew clothes at these shows, and you never know, I may see a driver suit at a show in the near future. Die casts, especially autographed ones are abundant at conventions, and I usually pick up one or two of them.

I picked up this very spiffy Michael Waltrip autographed jacket base on his 2004 driver suit. This jacket is notable in that it is very accurate when compared to his suit.waltripcoat waltripcoatb

It has arm gussets, which I have never seen on a jacket before.waltripcoat-rsleeve1

The material feels like the material that the real suit is made from, and is as heavy as an on track suit. It has a belt, though the belt is black, whereas the suit belt is blue, and Waltrip’s signature is embriodered into the side of the jacket, where a Goodyear logo is embroidered.waltripcoat-rchest

Waltrip’s name would normally be sewn into the belt in yellow lettering on a blue background.waltripcoat-belt

The arm logos are very accurate, and just like the suit, there are no television logos on the ends of the sleeves.waltripcoat-rshoulder waltripcoat-rsleeve1 waltripcoat-rsleeve2 waltripcoat-lshoulder waltripcoat-lsleeve1 waltripcoat-lsleeve2

Michael signed the jacket on the front NAPA logo.waltripcoat-flogo

An identical NAPA logo is on the back.waltripcoat-blogo

And instead of a safety certification, there is a NAPA logo on the back of the neck.waltripcoat-neck

I also bought a coin and die set from the U.S. Mint. The large round object is a die used to press coins.coinddie2

Tailgating Time!

A classic tailgating recipie is chili. It works well in the late summer and fall, and is very easy. This is a recipie that I personally use, and it is unique and has a kick to it.

You will need:

2 pounds chorizo sausage

2 onions, chopped

2 (7 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes

2 (7 ounce) cans smoked chipotle peppers

2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans

3 cups water

2 pinches chili powder

2 pinch garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

In two large saucepans over medium heat, using one pan for half the ingredients each, combine the chorizo and onion and saute until meat is browned and onion is tender. Add the stewed tomatoes with juice, smoked chipotle peppers with juice, tomato sauce, beans and water.

Season with the chili powder, garlic powder, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Paint Scheme Reviews:

Jeff Burton #31 GutterClear 365 Chevy SS Um…Who did the decals on the quarter panel? Why is the logo bent over the top of the deck lid? It looks odd, and it doesn’t do the car any favors. The CAT logo on the light blue background looks forced and awkward. The bad part is that if those two flaws were fixed, this would be a very solid scheme. I love the colors, and the overall design looks amazing, but the rear sponsor is just awful. I will give this scheme a C+ It is good but it need some work.

Tomy Drissi #87 The Counselor Toyota Camry Good color scheme, great simple classic design. A+

Birds and Sports

Quick, what do Randy Johnson, Dave Winfield, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. all have in common? Well for starters, all were very talented, and all are Hall of Famers, but that isn’t all. The unique thing about these three players is that each one of them has accidentally killed a bird while playing sports. Dave Winfield was playing in Toronto in 1983, and was playing catch with a bat boy, when a seagull flew into the path of the ball, and was hit and killed as a result. This was a total accident, but the fans were so upset that Winfield was arrested for animal cruelty. Police later dropped the charges, and Winfield was released. In 2001, Randy Johnson was pitching a spring training game, when he hit a dove with a pitch in a freak accident. A number of animal rights groups were upset, but no charges were filed.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s story is by far the strangest. At the 1991 Daytona 500, Earnhardt was a heavy favorite to win the race. Davey Allison won the pole, Hut Stricklin was 2nd, and Earnhardt was 3rd. Allison led the first lap, and Earnhardt took the lead during the 2nd lap. During that same lap, Earnhardt’s Chevy Lumina struck a seagull on the back stretch. Although this might not seem that bad, it seriously damaged the car, affecting the air intake, and raising the temperature of the engine. Emergency repairs took place, and while Earnhardt finished 5th, he wasn’t in contention for the lead after the seagull incident.

The really weird thing is that for many years, the seagull incident was a metaphor for Dale Sr.’s record at the Daytona 500. No discussion on his 19 futile attempts to win the Daytona 500 would be complete without mentioning the seagull incident. While other attempts to win the 500 ended with flat tires, or running out of gas, or just plain wrecks, the seagull incident stands out, along with the 1997 flip.

The 1997 Daytona 500 had the other unique incident at Daytona. During the 1997 event, Earnhardt was, again, a heavy favorite to win the event, and on lap 188, he was in a four-way battle for the lead, and he got into a wreck with the 28 car of Ernie Irvan, and rolled his car on the back-stretch. Irvan’s hood flies into the crowd and causes a number of injuries to fans. Earnhardt’s car lands on its wheels and Dale gets out of the car and heads to the ambulance. As he does so, he notices that his car has all four tires on it, so being Dale Earnhardt, he gets out of the ambulance and walks over to the car, and asks the guy attaching the car to the wrecker to see if the engine will fire, and it fired. He climbs back into his car and drives back to pit road, where is car is patched up as best could be done, and he finished the race 5 laps down. This is the only incident where a die-cast was made of a wrecked car. Speaking to reporters after the race, Earnhardt said “Well I just wanted to get back in the race and try to make laps, and we runnin’ for a championship…I got in the ambulance and I looked back at the car and said “man the wheels is still on that thing.” I got out of the ambulance and and asked the guy inside the car and he was hooking it up, I said “see if it would crank,” and he cranked it up, I said “get out, give me the car back” so I drove it back around and we taped it up.” It is a moment that still brings chills to my spine and this is 15 years later.

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I am proud to say that I own a piece of each car from the two above stories. From the 1991 Daytona 500, I own a small piece of the passenger-side fender, which still has race damage present. As seen below:

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From the 1997 Daytona 500 I have this piece of what remained of the car after the event. Interestingly, the car was repaired, and raced at Talladega later that season. The race damage is clearly visible on it:

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Moving on to paint schemes…

Kyle Busch #18 M&Ms Toyota Camry Very solid scheme here. Not only is the color scheme great, it looks even better than last year, with a clean front. The cleaner lines of the new car just make this scheme so much better as well. Final Grade A+

Jeff Burton #31 Caterpillar Hybrid Excavator Chevy SS Another great scheme, though the tailpipe decals are really ugly, and the yellow roof number is really ugly. Final Grade B+

And we also have some driver suit photos and videos

Joey Logano #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion This was posted on Logano’s Facebook page, and all I can say is… Hey look kids! It’s Ronald McDonald! Joking aside, this seriously looks like a McDonald’s suit, but with Shell and Pennzoil logos. That being said, it’s not a bad suit, the television logos are good, and it gets a final grade of an A

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowes Chevy SS This video, from Hendrick Motorsports YouTube page shows Johnson’s new suit.  Very solid, with a great color scheme and basic design. I could to without the white collar, but that is only a minor complaint for a great suit, and it gets an A!