Saturday, October 1, 2011

Toby Kruse named GM of Knoxville Raceway

On Wednesday, Knoxville Raceway announced that Toby Kruse had been selected by the Marion County Fair Board as general manager and promoter of the raceway.  Kruse will take over from retiring Ralph "Cappy" Capitani at the end of the year.

Kruse has extensive experience in motorsports, ranging from announcing, flagging, occasionally driving, and managing both Marshalltown Speedway and Beatrice Speedway.

As someone who has attended many races at Marshalltown and Knoxville, I am excited that Toby will be taking the helm and I anticipate good things!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Death of an Icon: National Speed Sport News Stops Publishing

National Speed Sport News announced this week that the March 23, 2011 print edition was the last.  While the company will continue with an online presence, it was no longer financially feasible to continue publishing.

NSSN has been a motorsports staple since 1934.  Published weekly, it provided photos, news stories, commentary and advertising for all of the big motorsports events.

Personally, I loved getting each issue and reading it from cover to cover.  NSSN contained information on all the main forms of racing: Formula One, Nascar, sprint cars, NHRA, and a few local events as well.  It was a great way to get "one stop" shopping done for my racing news.

Hopefully, the online resource continues to flourish.  Farewell, NSSN print edition, it was great welcoming you into my home.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nascar Swings at 'wide Whacking; Kills Series Instead

Complaints about Bush-whacking or 'wide Whacking as it is now known (at least in my lexicon) have been legion for years.

According to the complaints, every year, Sprint Cup racers win the series championships in the Nationwide series.  Sprint Cup racers cherry pick the biggest purses in the Nationwide series and win them, starving the smaller teams.  Cup racers take driving jobs from other drivers in the lower series.

While some of the complaints are legitimate, Nascar has benefited greatly from the practice of Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide and truck series.  But Nascar has determined to change this starting immediately.  This year, drivers must select which series they accrue points in:  in other words, if a driver runs both Cup and Nationwide, point will only be awarded in one series.

{It remains to be seen how this affects the rookie rule - which says a driver cannot have more than 6 starts in the Cup series to remain eligible for rookie status the next year.  If you don't get points in Cup, it shouldn't matter if you run 20 Cup races, right?}

The new rule has problems, as far as I can tell.  First, while it doesn't remove the monetary incentive to Cup drivers, it does remove some of it.  Money collected from points fund payouts in lower series do subsidize driver's, owner's and team's coffers.  The extra money for wins still will apply, so that will lure a few Cup drivers in.

Second, the rule will have severe implications in sponsorship deals.  If Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, or Brad Keselowski do not have the option to win a championship, will they run?  If they don't run, will their sponsors leave the sport?  Sponsors select drivers and teams to get the most bang for their buck.  Kyle Busch can practically guarantee that he will get TV coverage - regardless whether he wins or finishes last.  Can Shelby Howard, Jennifer Cobb or Kelly Bires deliver that?  There are sponsors who are willing to sponsor Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin or Kevin Harvick who will not sponsors a driver named Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Danny O'Quinn or Brett Moffitt.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr, the most popular driver in Nascar, has sponsorship woes with his teams, what hope do the rest of the teams have??

Third, the tracks will suffer.  If the Cup drivers aren't at the track, will the fans show up?  While this may not matter at tracks where the race is paired with a Cup race, it will impact tracks like Iowa Speedway, Nashville, Montreal, Road America, Memphis, etc.  Will drivers make the cross-country trip to the Nationwide race from a Cup race?  Why bother if a championship isn't on the line?

More importantly, if the fans think Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are not coming, will the fans bother going to the race?

I suspect the rule has a bit more sinister purpose: kill the tracks without a Cup race.  A look at those tracks reveals that those tracks are largely owned by Non-ISC corporations.  Remember that ISC is owned by the France family.  If the Non-ISC owned tracks have to close (a la Gateway or Memphis), then those races can go to other tracks, say ones ISC owns.

The simple math is: France family money from Nascar + France family money from ISC = $$$$$$

The problem is that this rule will affect more than tracks, as it will likely drive out sponsors, teams and fans in addition to the Cup drivers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Boone Supernationals

First, let me start by telling you I love the Boone Supernationals.  It is an experience unlike any other.  If you love racing, you really need to add this event to your "Must-See" list.

The Supernationals are a weeklong dirt track racing festival.  This year over 805 cars participated in over 340 races, with 2,000+ green flag laps, all culminating in six Champions.  A Typical race day starts at 3 p.m. and ends somewhere between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. (No, I'm not kidding).

Sponsored by IMCA, the Supernationals draw racers and fans from all over the U.S. and Canada.  This year, the crowd was more diversified than ever.  The fans that pack the stands and the campgrounds are friendly, excited, and willing to talk racing at any level (Nascar, local track, F1, sprint cars).  There are plenty of activities during the week - meeting the drivers, pancake breakfasts, parades, and whatever else happens in racing campgrounds.

The racing is truly at the grassroots level.  Most of the drivers hold another job and use the Supernationals as their vacation for the year.  They have raced weekly at their local track; some are track champions, while others are just guys looking for a good time and a race.  While there are sponsorships, they are local sponsorships - the town plumber, hotel, restaurant, towing service and parts supplier. You won't find DuPont, Home Depot or  M&M's here.  Cars are more likely to be sponsored by Mom & Dad, Toby K's Hideaway, Harris Auto, Smith Farms or Victory Chassis.

Fans have favorites, demonstrated by their T-shirts and cheers, but they are also willing to boo a driver for bad driving. (Last night a fistfight broke out on track between drivers during a last chance race, which sparked some excitement.)   At the same time, drivers are welcomed into the stands after their events and chat with the fans.

Last night, four Champions were crowned in the Hobby Stock, Stock Car, SportModified and Modified classes.  Jason Wilkinson of Neligh, Nebraska won the Hobby Stock A Main; Jeremy Christians of Horicon, Wisconsin won the Stock Car A Main; Brett Meyer of Lytton, Iowa won the SportMod Championship; Jimmy Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa was crowned the Modified Champion.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the races, talking to racing friends, meeting a few new ones, and getting lots of dirt blown on me.

Let's say taking three showers to get clean afterwards did not dampen my enthusiasm for the night...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Hub-Bub Over Busch-Keselowski

Kyle Busch dumped Brad Keselowski on his way to a Nationwide series win last night.

And Busch even admitted it in post-race interviews.  Now, some are claiming Busch was too aggressive and should be penalized.  And maybe he should.  I'd guess Nascar flipped a coin in the trailer and it came up roses for Busch.  On the other hand, Keselowski drives like he owns the place at nearly every track - maybe the powers that be decided he deserved what he got.

So much for consistency in policing the on-track retaliation.  That, of course, is Nascar.

What I am most impressed with is that Busch felt comfortable enough to admit he dumped Keselowski.  And that Keselowski felt comfortable enough to say he was planning retaliation.  The truth is, anyone watching the tape can see it was retaliation and anyone with half a brain knows there will be payback by Keselowski on Busch.

The bigger issue is whether Nascar really wants to go this way.  Is it OK if the retaliation happens at Bristol as it is a short track with lower speeds than a speedway?  What happens if, a couple weeks from the Chase cut off, the two get into someone trying to make the Chase?  Or if someone in the Chase already is injured to the degree he can't drive?

Smacking down their talk won't really prevent these things from happening, just the drivers from talking about them.  Perhaps having it out in the open is enough to alert everyone involved to watch out for these two on the track.

I'd like to propose another option.  Why couldn't the fans decide who is at fault?  Put it to a vote using email addresses, so 1 vote per person - vote for the person who is at fault.  Driver at fault (the Loser) pays $100,000 to a charity of the Winner's choice.  Heck, let the fan vote account for 40% of the vote, give another 40% to the other drivers and owners and 20% to Nascar.  This way, the score is settled and everyone can move on without feeling that the other guy got away with something.  And, a few charities would be made a lot richer.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Things I learned the 50th Knoxville Nationals

Last night was the 50th running of the Knoxville Nationals.  A crowd of over 23,000 watched the 50 lap feature.  I spent most of the day volunteering at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (one of my favorite places).  Here is what I learned while in Knoxville all day.

1.  Aussies love sprint car racing.  Each year, more and more Aussies show up at Knoxville.  One man I spoke with last night estimated that a couple thousand Aussies were at the Nationals.  Amazingly, the local and national media haven't picked up on this story - that Aussies come to America to visit IOWA to watch racing.

2.  Race Fans Can't Recognize Drivers.  Fans wearing Tony Stewart gear won't recognize Smoke, even if he holds the door for them and waits with them for an elevator.  Fans are no better at seeing Kasey Kahne when he is walking around either.  Apparently, remove the firesuit, become invisible.

3.  Aussies are flirts.  Do I really need to explain this?

4.  It ain't over until it's over.  With 5 to go, it appeared that the race would either go to Donny Schatz or Sammy Swindell.  The pair started swapping the lead each turn until with 3 to go, Swindell's left rear tire blew.  Then everyone presumed Schatz would win (some fans left the stands at this point).  Then on the restart, Schatz's engine started to go and Tim Shaffer motored to the win.

5.  Good guys can finish first. I met Tim several years ago when he made a special trip into the museum to sign some items for a benefit. This was despite the fact he was unable to race at the time because of an injury.  But he still made the trip and followed through with the things he had committed to do.  That speaks volumes for his character.

Friday, August 13, 2010

50th Knoxville Nationals

Tomorrow night is the 50th Knoxville Nationals.  It won't be broadcast live on SPEED this year, but it will be on SPEED later this month.

All this week, sprint car drivers have been battling for a spot in the A Main.  Tonight, a scramble will be held to actually line up the top point-getting cars.  The top 20 drivers, who are locked into the show, are:

1. 21 Brian Brown 484
2. 1s Sammy Swindell 482
3. 22 Greg Hodnett 477
4. 15 Donny Schatz 477
5. 11 Steve Kinser 474
6. 13x Daryn Pittman 473
7. 83 Tim Shaffer 470
8. 57 Shane Stewart 470
9. 41 Jason Johnson 468
10. 2B Dale Blaney 468
11. 3 Kerry Madsen 464
12. 2 Skip Jackson 463
13. 12 Lynton Jeffrey 461
14. 7s Jason Sides 461
15. 91 Dusty Zomer 455
16. 56 Davey Heskin 452
17. 63 Chad Kemenah 452
18. 9 Joey Saldana 447
19. 98 Erin Crocker 445
20. 7TW Brandon Wimmer 442

So, on Saturday, the drivers not in the A Main will try to charge through the field and start at the back of the A Main, hoping they can make it to the front of the pack.  Everyone will be gunning for Donny Schatz, who is attempting to win his fifth Knoxville Nationals in a row.

Attempting to win this year are a father-son duo from Australia, Max and Mitch Dumesny, neither is currently in the A Main.  Another father-son duo, who have both won the Nationals, are Steve & Kraig Kinser - Kraig is in the D Main and Steve is in the A Main.  Other family connections are Brian Brown (the top point-getter) is the nephew of Danny Lasoski, who is in the C Main.

Tomorrow night, they all will have one last shot at immortality.  Not only does a Knoxville Nationals trophy put you on the sprint car map, it pays well, with a total purse of over $1 million.  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nascar's New Silence Policy

Nascar announced last week it had fined two undisclosed drivers for remarks they made disparaging the sport.  Nascar wants to develop this policy to keep up with the NBA, NFL, and other major sports.

The "small" problem is that Nascar is not like other major sports.  The NBA, NFL and MLB are all unionized sports that provide a variety of helps to their players.  All three major sports have contracting helps for players coming into the league, minimum salary requirements, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Nascar does not allow a players' union, does not provide health insurance and does not require or provide retirement benefits.  Using the argument that each driver/crew chief/ crew member is an independent contractor, Nascar has strenuously rebuffed unionization.

Curtis Turner, a man who should be in the Nascar Hall of Fame for his driving skills, if not for his part in developing Charlotte Motor Speedway with Bruton Smith, tried to unionize Nascar back in the 1960's.  Big Bill France responded by banning him for life from the sport (this was eventually lifted several years later).

More recently, the issue of standardized retirement contributions reared its head when Sam Ard, a Busch series champion, had no retirement, and fell on hard times as he aged.  Despite the rallying of drivers and the media, Nascar basically said, "Sorry, we aren't responsible for drivers retirement and we won't provide a retirement plan for drivers as they are independent contractors."

Now Nascar wants to have its cake and eat it too.  It wants to punish "independent contractors" for saying things against the sport while at the same time not providing the benefits the other major sports do.

If Nascar wants to have drivers tow the line, then it needs to pony up some of the benefits of the other major sports' unionization - particularly retirement benefits, open disclosure of contracts (like the others), provide health care insurance, and help young drivers moving into the sport.

Shame on them for taking and without giving.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flag It: A Look at the Language of Racing Flags

I had originally posted this information on Foxsports a couple years ago.  However, as I was at the track a couple weeks ago, I realized again how often people do not know what the flags mean.  So, here is a refresher for you.  Remember that local tracks and sanctioning bodies may have different rules for each flag (or may not even use some of these flags).

One of my favorite things to do during a race is watch the flagman.  Regardless if it is a six lap heat race or a 400 mile race, the flagman is conversing with all the drivers during the whole event.

Knowing what the flags mean helps the spectator understand what is going on during the race.  Most race fans know the basics, but are unable to explain what the black flag with white cross means.  Be forewarned, however, that different series have different rules pertaining to the flags they display.

Green Flag:  Shown to start the race.  Will typically be shown when no other flag is appropriate.  Some sanctioning bodies (USAC, WoO, IMCA) will only count laps run under green flag conditions, others (Nascar, IRL, F1) will count laps run under other flags.  An Interesting note, Formula One now uses a green light system to start the race, but before that used the National Flag of the country to start the race.

Yellow Flag:  Slow and maintain position as there is a hazard on the track.  Universal.  In Formula One, the location and movement of the flag or flags indicate where the hazard is on the track or off the track.  This flag is also used by Nascar to indicate during a practice session that cars should pit immediately.

Yellow & Red Stripped Flag:  Varies slightly by sancationing body:  In Nascar,  used on road courses only to indicate debris or slippery condition. 
 In F1, it means a "deterioration of adhesion" due to oil or water on the track ahead.   In IRL, means oil or slippery condition.

Red Flag:  Stop immediately.  Usually indicates the track is unsafe or blocked.  In F1, it indicates the cars should immediately go to pit road.

Red with Yellow Cross:  Pits are closed.  Used primarily in the IRL.  Not used in F1.  Nascar may have used in the past, but does not use currently. 

Black Flag:  Shown to individual car.  Means penalty of some sort, and consultation in the pits is required.  Some sanctioning bodies use to indicate mechanical problems as well as driving problems.  If shown for consecutive laps (usually between 2-4) , with driver ignoring the flag, will eventually mean the car is no longer scored.  Formula One uses two other black flags, one which is be half white with diagnoal stripe, which means car has committed unsportsmanlike conduct.  And the other is black with an orange disk, indicating mechanical problems, pull into pits immediately.

Black Flag with White Cross:  Car no longer scored.  Shown after car ignored Black Flag.  Also indicates whatever you did wrong is now more serious as you just disregarded race officials request for a consultation.

Blue with Yellow Stripe:  Faster car approaching.  In Nascar, does not mean you must give way.  In F1, this flag is solid blue.

White Flag:  One lap left in race.

Checkered Flag:  Race is complete.  Car who finishes laps first, wins.

White with Red Stripe or Cross:  In IRL, with Red Cross means ambulance on course.  


Information from,,,, and wikipedia.  Flag artwork from,, and

Monday, April 26, 2010

Instant Messages from Hendrick Motorsports

Monday, April 19, 2010 at 5:04 p.m.

JG#24: Rick, I'm a bit frustrated with Jimmie.
RH: Jeff, I watched the race. I don't think he did anything wrong.
JG#24: Maybe not technically, but I think he is racing too hard. It's gonna lead to a crash sometime. Can't he at least be less aggressive when it doesn't matter about position?
RH: I'll talk with him. But the two of you need to work this out.
RH: And when exactly is position not important?
JG#24: I'll call him tomorrow. I think he's pressing too hard since he may miss a race for the baby's birth. Of all people, I know how important that is, but luck is going to run out. He cost me this race.
RH: I thought Stewart and Edwards caused the crash?!?
JG#24: I still think Jimmie was in the wrong. He's in on this. Maybe through Knaus.
RH: You think Jimmie paid Tony & Carl to crash you out???
JG#24: It is possible.
RH: Did you hit your head in that crash or something?
JG#24: Knaus is always up to something. And he seems to have all this information. Stewart has a few bad things in his closet. I'm sure Knaus knows how to use them.
RH: Knaus and Jimmie had nothing to do with your crash. Crashes happen in racing.
RH: As far as I'm concerned, this issue is closed. You boys can work it out.
JG#24: Fine. But if it continues, I'll be back to talk about it again. And I'll deal with it on track too.
RH: Give Ingrid my best. And give Ella a kiss for me.
JG#24: I will.
CK#48: Rick, we need to talk about the 24 team.
RH: Chad, what could you possibly be worrying about the 24 team for?
CK#48: Tomorrow I'll come and talk with you.
RH: I guess.

Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 7:10 p.m.

JG#24: DID YOU SEE WHAT JJ DID TO ME??!??!?!?!?!?!!!!!!
RH: Jeff, I'm sure that Jimmie has a reason.
JG#24: Rick, he's trying to take me out. He's trying to be the next driver to 5 Championships.
RH: And what's
JG#24: He plans to do it by crashing me every week so I can't get any points.
RH: I don't think that h
JG#24: You need to do something.
RH: Like
JG#24: As 48.48% owner, I think we should fire him.
RH: You're kidding right?
JG#24: No. He's pushed me too far this time.
RH: He's the reigning champion
JG#24: No one is above firing.
RH: Even you.
JG#24: I have a lifetime contract. So I am above that.
RH: We gave Jimmie one too.
DE#88: Mr. Hendrick, I was hoping we'd pull off the win, but maybe next week.
RH: Dale, I thought you looked great out there. I'm sure Lance will have some ideas for next time. A win is definitely on your horizon. Soon.
DE#88: Thanks. I think Lance and I are working well. But I'd still like to work with Chad, if that is ever a possibility.
RH: Keep working at it. I doubt Chad will be working with anyone else anytime soon.
JG#24: Well
RH: I don't think that Jimmie
JG#24: We need a spot for Kasey next year, let's give him the 48.
RH: So you want to fire Jimmie at the end of the Year????
JG#24: No, I want him fired right now.
RH: I'm not firing him now. Or later. We'll work out something for Kasey.
JG#24: Then let's fine him.
RH: Since when have we fined anyone for anything???
JG#24: We should have fined Knaus for all that cheating.
JG#24: See you let them get by with EVERYTHING.
RH: We didn't fine Ray when he was tinkering with things.
RH: To your benefit, I might add
JG#24: Ray never did half the stuff Chad has gotten by with, let alone what he's been caught doing.
RH: I don't think Chad cheats.
JG#24: And I KNOW Knaus has bugged our garage or something. He knows EVERYTHING
RH: Jeff, we share information across the teams.
JG#24: But he knows stuff we've never shared.
RH: You're keeping stuff from the team?!?
JG#24: I mean that Steve and I have secrets that no one else could know. Chad knows them. How could he do that?
RH: Chad does not have time to try to find out your secrets. Are you getting paranoid on me? Knaus is too busy innovating.
JG#24: I think he does more blackmailing and that hides the lack of innovation - and he steals from other teams.
RH: What are you talking about?
JG#24: The only way he didn't get a longer suspension last time was that he has something on either France or Helton. Maybe both.
RH: You think Chad is blackmailing Nascar????
JG#24: I'm not so sure that he isn't blackmailing you!
RH: Jeff, why don't you get some sleep an we'll talk about this in the morning?
JG#24: So you haven't ruled out firing Jimmie?
RH: I have ruled it out. You are going to have to suck it up and deal. Man up a little.
JG#24: I'm having the garage swept for bugs tomorrow. And I don't mean cockroaches.
RH: I'm sure you won't find anything.
RH: I'll talk to Jimmie again.
RH: I'm sure this will all smooth over soon.
JG#24: Whatever.
CK#48: Has Gordo come whining yet?
RH: What do you want Chad.
CK#48: We're still on the same page, right? Nothing happens to Jimmie & I. Or else.
RH: Chad, first off, you and Jimmie are great together. Why would I change things?
CK#48: But we are still on the same page.
RH: Yes, Chad, we are.