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.