Monday, June 29, 2009

What happened to the Young Guns?

Take a quick look at the top four in Nascar Sprint Cup Standings:

1.  Tony Stewart
2.  Jeff Gordon
3.  Jimmie Johnson
4.  Kurt Busch

What do they all have in common?  
They are former Champions.
They all are in their 30's.
They have all been in the series for several years.

So where is all the young talent?  The rookie class is not fairing well.  Joey Logano is back in 21st place, while Scott Speed is stuck in 35th and Max Papis is in 42nd.  And in fact, I would not call either Speed or Papis a young gun - both have racing success in other series before jumping to Nascar.

Kyle Busch is relatively young, but his tenure in Cup has been so long it doesn't feel right calling him a young gun.  Kasey Kahne has been around several years as has Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, and Brian Vickers.  Brad Kesolowski may be the one bright spot on the horizon, but where is a seat for him to take over?

So where are all the up and comers who are supposed to be the next hot thing?  Is the Buschwacking phenomenon finally showing the Nascar nearsightedness?  Or are the old hats just hanging on better to their rides?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sonoma! Or Why I still love road courses.

I ventured out of Iowa last week to attend the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway.  I've always liked road courses, mainly because it looks like it would be (a) a lot of work to drive and (b) more fun than driving in circles for hours.

Attending the race there confirmed for me that Nascar needs to keep both road course races and add one to the Chase.  First, TV does not do justice to the steep inclines and sharp corners on the track.  And the TV coverage does not get all the action going on all over the track.

The facility itself is great, as I would expect from SMI, but the seating in the Start/Finish Grandstand was intriguing.  The chairs were hard plastic (like patio furniture), but had a fold down individual seat.  I love it!  I didn't feel like I was sitting on the people next to me and had room to stretch my legs. 

The seating in the other turns is concrete block with a terraced walkway built into the side of a hill.  You'd definitely want a soft cushion if you intended to sit there for the whole race!

I was amazed how well I could see portions of the track, although not all turns were visible from where I was seated.  I doubt all turns are visible from anywhere you could be seated.  But if I go again (more a question of time and money than desire), I'd probably sit in Turn 7.  Turn 7 features the sharp right hand turn down into the esses and was where most of the punting action occurred on Sunday.

Getting in and out was very easy.  I did hang around after the race to talk to friends and to participate the the track walk.  I still left the track for my car within 60-90 minutes of the checkered flag.  My car wasn't parked too far away, and the trams and other transportation were still running when I left.  However, I basically got into my car and drove out of the parking lot!  I've only done that before after a Nascar race at Darlington - Indy doesn't count since I don't park in the lots.  I know several other people who got stuck in the other lots or on the highway, but my experience was great as far as the parking went.

Overall, I'd highly recommend a trip to a road course.  You'll have a lot of fun, learn a few things, and be one of the few fans who gets to a Nascar race at a road course.