Saturday, December 12, 2009

John's Typical Cliched Blogger "Best of 2009" Post

Best Album of 2009: Killswitch Engage - Killswitch Engage

KSE continues to evolve their sound, making it slightly cleaner on vocals and cleaner on rythm, while still maintaining the thrash aspects and the powerful screams. Their video/radio-friendly "Starting Over" is the "weakest" tune of the track but still a lot of fun. Favourites of mine include Reckoning, and the head-bangingly brutal Save Me.

Honourable Mention: Megadeth - Endgame

Best Book of 2009: Dan Simmons - Drood

I was surprised this ended up my favourite of '09, as opposed to a sci-fi book... But I realized most of my great sci-fi/fantasy reads this year weren't published in '09... But Drood was just awesome, a great paranormaly-charged, brooding, dark mystery involving Charles Dickens and Wilkey Collins. The tension and fear are palpable for the entire book as you descend further and further into Wilkey's madness (or is it madness?) I eagerly await Guillermo del Toro's movie version.

Honourable Mention: Alan Campbell - God of Clocks

Best Movie of 2009: District 9

So hard to choose just one, but I'll go with District 9. It's fantastic, plain and simple. Great sci-fi, great social commentary, great special effects on a relatively low budget.

Honourable Mention: Star Trek, Coraline, 9

Best Fight of 2009: Couture vs. Nogueira, UFC 102.

Despite going to a decision, these two former HW Champs and legends in the sport still put on a clinic of dirty boxing and greco wrestling that made all the young guns this year look like crap.

Honourable Mention: St. Pierre vs Penn II, UFC 94 (Not because it was a great fight, but bceause it was a one-sided thrashing that sent the whining prick back to LW for good.

Best TV Show of 2009: Fringe

It was the best show last year too. I'm insanely hooked on this show, and never know where it's gonna go next. It's like the X-Files with better production values and special effects, and a more cohesive storyline.

Honourable Mention: The Tonight Show with Conan O'brien (still the funniest man on TV)

John's Top 10 Motorsports Stories of 2009

The first of two stereotypical blogger posts--my own personal best Motorsports Moments of 2009.

10. Talladega Continues to Produce the Worst Racing on Planet Earth

I've said my piece here and here about this crock of shit masquerading as "racing," so I won't delve into it any further. It's wrong, it's maddening, and NASCAR refuses to do anything about--until, as Carl Edwards said, someone else dies.

Honourable Mention: Brad Keselowski doing exactly what he was forced to do by NASCAR's system to win. The fact he was a winner on a part-time schedule, in a car that's barely in the owner's points and may never have had even a top 10, speaks volumes of what's wrong with Talladega. As much as we like to see underdogs win, we don't want to see it this way.

9. Johnson Wins Fourth in a Row to Cap an Awful Racing Season

With a few exceptions, like both races at Martinsville, the race at Watkins Glen and Darlington, 2009 was the most boring season in recent memory. Virtually no on-track passing (at least compared to what stockcar racing is SUPPOSED to be), fuel mileage race after fuel mileage race, horrific wrecks at Talladega, very few on-track rivalries, and yet another contrived Chase playoff that had no one biting their nails, while under the old points system Stewart and Johnson would've dueled for the title to the very last lap at Homestead.

Not to take away anything from Johnson and his team, who have learned to play the system better than anyone else in the garage--don't blame the players, blame the system.

(Then again, this system has forced him to race like a pussy--including sitting at the very back, out of the lead draft at Talladega while 30 cars wrecked in front of him, allowing him to finish 6th. Not sure if NASCAR or Johnson pisses me off more in that case.)

Of all the problems, only the ridiculous and inconsistent race start times were fixed by NASCAR for next season. Expect more of this awful boredom next season, due to bullshit rules, an awful car design, and lots of boring, boring tracks.

Honourable Mention: Carl Edwards goes winless after winning 9 races last year. Despite being the annointed one who would finally take Johnson's crown, Edwards struggled all season, but still managed to get into the Chase.

8. Jenson Button and Brawn Win Formula 1 World Championship

Despite what the haters think, Button did a bang up job this season, winning six of the first seven rounds of the championship, including Monaco. Many complained that he did so only because of a gray-area in the rules allowing a double diffuser on the car, but truth be told his championship form was not displayed in the first half of the season, but the second half.

Technology as always is the #1 thing going in F1, and once everyone else's tech had caught up with Brawn's, Button struggled to have a winning car. But lost in talk of Button's poor qualifying performances, people ignore the fact that he probably executed more daring, skillful passes in the remaining ten races than most F1 drivers pull off in their entire career. This was particularly true in Brazil, where he clinched the championship coming from 9th to finish 5th, with daring passes on Grosjean, Nakajima, and the fiery rookie Kamui Kobayashi.

Then, having performed like a racer's racer in Brazil, he went to Abu Dhabi as champion, again qualified poorly, then had an awesome battle with Mark Webber at the end for 2nd place, eventually settling for 3rd by only a couple of car lengths at the end of the race. Listen to most racing enthusiasts and they'll tell you it was the best on-track battle all season--listen to the haters, and they'll hate on Button for not being able to "easily dispatch" Mark Webber like a world champion should. I call these people idiots.

Honourable Mention: Rubens Barrichello wins two Grands Prix for Brawn GP, despite being the oldest driver in the field and in what many felt were the waning years of his career.

7. Dario Franchitti Wins a Closely Constested IRL Championship, Dozens of Fans Rejoice, And the Series Reaches New Levels of Boredom

You would think that three guys having a mathematical shot at the championship heading into the final race would be exciting, but the IRL went out with a wimper--in fact, the entire season was a joke, so really the whole thing was a wimper.

Target Chip-Ganassi and Penske Racing combined to win sixteen of seventeen races--the lone underdog to win was Justin Wilson at Watkins Glen, who only won after a pit road snafu from Penske's Ryan Briscoe took him out of the lead. And as we all know, passing in the IRL is virtually impossible except at a couple of tracks, so once Wilson was out front, that was that.

The vast, vast majority of passes took place in the pits, with the exception of a really exciting battle at Kentucky between underdog Ed Carpenter and Ryan Briscoe (you can guess who won that.)

To the IRL's credit, unlike NASCAR, they saw how awful the racing was (at Richmond--RICHMOND of all places) and quickly enacted some changes to the aerodynamics--although it didn't help parity at all, as the two Superteams continued to dominate. That, combined with most of the races being broadcast on the Versus Network, which has 13 subscribers, made for a really, really dismal season of racing. The one bright spot, as is often the case, was the 500, with Castroneves winning after clearing his name in court for tax evasion charges. Also, Danica finished 3rd in the same race, the highest ever position for a woman.

Honourable Mention: Danica finishing 3rd at Indy and, despite not winning a race (and no one else did besides Penske and Ganassi), finishes a personal high of 5th in the standings, beating out all the "best of the rest," including former champions Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon.

6. Kimi Räikkönen wins at Spa, Continues to Not Be a Typical F1 Douchebag

A lot of people have sort of glossed over this, but the Umlaut'd one picked up his fourth career victory at Spa-Francorchamps this season, tying him with the legendary Jim Clark--though unlike Clark, Kimi loves Spa. The win was particularly impressive given how poorly the Ferrari performed all season compared to Red Bull, Brawn and McLaren. He knew what equipment he had to work with though, driving from 6th on the grid to 2nd using his KERS boost, and leaving him on the back wing of the Force India car when the safety car came out. From there he passed Fisichella into Les Combes and was able to hold onto the win, his final for Ferrari.

And now he takes a break from F1, after being booted in favour of Alonso, and will go after the WRC Championship, rather than be relegated to an F1 B-Team. He continues to say what he thinks, and just gest in the car and does his job.

Honourable Mention: Mark Webber winning his first two career races, playing the perfect "experienced teammate" to Vettel and, in the early going, fighting for the championship.

5. Kyle Busch wins 20 Races, NWS Championship, Fails to Make Chase

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the talent, even if he's basically shitting on the Nationwide Series, coming with a Cup-level team to match his Cup-level skills. He dominated the series with 9 wins, and more importantly 11 second-place finishes, breaking another single-season NWS record for 20 Top 2 finishes. He also won seven Camping World Truck races, and four Cup races... And whenever he didn't win, he whined like a petulent child... Only in the NWS and Truck series. Somehow, his PR folks managed to calm him down and make him act respectable in the Cup series, instead of blaming his team--although the latter continued to happen in Truck and NWS when he didn't win.

Perhaps the bigger story was being locked out of the Chase--despite four wins, he had a pretty terrible season, either wrecking or finishing well out of the top 10 when he DIDN'T win. Sensing that maybe his focus was wavering, he finally agreed to focus full-time on Cup in 2010, though he will still race part-time in NWS and Truck. Which is good for the NWS Championship, as someone else might actually have a shot at winning it--but bad for NWS and Truck, as he continues to steal victories away from lesser organizations that are in the series' for a living, not for fun.

Honourable Mention: Mike Bliss wins at Charlotte, then is fired by Phoenix Racing. He then races for three other teams, giving them all solid top 5s and top 10s on the way to a 5th place finish in points. Now he's signed for a start-and-park team in the Cup Series. This former Truck series champion deserves a good ride!

4. Andrew Ranger Puts NASCAR on Notice, and Wins Second NCATS Championship

Another guy I'm not particularly a huge fan of (especially since I'm a Kerry Micks fan), but he is currently "the" Canadian hero in motorsports, and proved it this season, by winning his second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Championship, with six victories in thirteen races, including his first oval wins at Riverside, Sun Valley and Mosport. He almost swept the road course races too, but was spoiled by our local boy JR Fitzpatrick in Montreal.

Montreal though, more importantly, featured Ranger's best performance of the season, when he ran in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, leading laps, beating and banging and racing hard with Marcose Ambrose, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, eventually finishing a well-deserved 3rd, in the underfunded #11 car. How this kid doesn't have a full-time NWS ride yet is beyond me. Amazing performance--and shades of Gilles Villeneuve.

Honourable Mention: Marcos Ambrose has the win at Montreal in the bag only to overcook it into the final Chicane, narrowly miss hitting the Wall of Champions, and allows Carl Edwards by for his first ever road course win--and in the wet!

3. NCATS Delaware 200

This is a bit of a personal one to me, but seeing NASCAR come to London, Ontario, after CASCAR basically dumped Delaware Speedway a few years ago, was a pretty big deal to me. The stands were overflowing with people, we had a great 50-lap Super Stock race as a warmup, all the big-league pomp and circumstance in the opening ceremonies, and then a pretty awesome 200 lap race that had it all, including home-town favourite DJ Kennington bumping aside the "villian," Don Thompson, Jr, for the win in the final Green/White/Checkered.

NCATS returns in 2010 for the season opener at Delaware this time, and hopefully I'll be pitside, having raced in the Super Stock 50 lapper before it!

Honourable Mention: former CASCAR Champion Dave Whitlock wins NCATS season opener at St. Eustache, then announces his retirement from the sport after a long and storied career.

2. Ron Hornaday Wins 5 Races in a Row, 4th Straight Championship, Generally Continues Being No-Nonsense Racing Badass

Unlike Johnson's supposed "domination" in the boring-ass Chase, Ron Hornaday won his record 4th title in the Camping World Truck Series, which continues to impress and have a ton of great racing at a ton of great tracks.

This season had actually the LEAST exciting championship fight in the last decade or so, with Hornaday really being the class of the field unless Kyle Busch showed up--but it still featured some awesome racing, and first time winners like Timothy Peters and Brian Scott.

Old fashioned badass racing with old fashioned badass drivers, on old fashioned badass race tracks. Who would've thunk it?

Next season promises to be just as exciting, with Hornaday getting a new crew chief, which may cause teething problems and let others catch up. Kyle Busch will also be fielding two trucks of his own, with Taylor Malsam and Bryan Ickler, both of whom are sure to impress. And many other potential winners sit in the field, like Matt Crafton, that asshole Todd Bodine, Mike Skinner, and hopefully a returning Johnny Benson, if Kyle Busch gets his way. And Rowdy himself will show up and win sometimes, without a doubt.

Meanwhile, SPEED TV ratings for the Truck series continue to climb up and up while the Cup Series ratings go down, down down. Which begs the question--when will these sponsors realize the success the Truck series is having, and help these teams out better?

Honourable Mention: Timothy Peters wins his home race at Martinsville.

1. Mark Martin wins Southern 500, Four More Races, Finishes 2nd for a 5th time

Being a fan of Mark since I was 12, I was pleasantly surprised to see him return full-time this season, and his first win at Phoenix had me in good spirits. I expected him to contend, but after those first three DNFs (two engines, one blown R/R tire), I figured that was the end of the season as far as the championship. But Mark is down and never out, and he rallyed from 34th-ish in the points to 8th by the time the Chase locked in. To me his best moment of the season was winning the Southern 500 for the second time, a race which I still contend is more prestigeous and important than anything else in the season other than the Daytona 500. To see him pass Jimmie Johnson, and then pull away, with it clear that Johnson had NOTHING for him, was a refreshing reminder of how Mark used to be in the 90s, and clearly it refreshed him too, and you could see that old hunger return.

He finished 2nd, yet again, in the point standings... But we Martin fans have come to accept that. We know that, much like every other season except '98, there was always that little SOMETHING out of Martin's control that snatched it away. In 1990 it was a legal carb spacer that NASCAR deemed illegal, robbing him of the exact points he needed to win the title. This season, it was undoubtedly that farce of a race at Talladega, where Johnson lulled around at the back for the entire race, slipped through two Big Ones, and finished 6th. Meanwhile Martin, the racer's racer, fought tooth and nail in the top 10 for most of the race, and was looking good until the second-last lap, when he got caught by a spinning car and ended up on his roof. What else is new. We Martin fans have learned to cherish the highs and do our best to ignore the lows.

And he'll win the championship next year, dammit.

Honourable Mention: Kasey Khane wins his first road course race at Sonoma, holding off a hard charging Tony Stewart on TWO restarts. It was also the first win for the new Petty team.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Suggested Reading...

Yay, it's time for me to be the typical blogger and recommend books! I won't bother with big drawn out reviews though, I'm not a professional reviewer and I won't waste my time.

First up is Alan Campbell's excellent Deepgate Codex, a trilogy that I'm just now finishing up with the third book, God of Clocks.

It has an amazing level of creativity, a real fresh breath in an over-saturated sci-fi/fantasy genre. In a nutshell, it takes place in a sort of alternate human reality, a mixture of magic/fantasy, steampunk and a little sci-fi. Angels and gods are real, and they're fighting a seemingly never-ending war between heaven and hell. Caught in the mix are the Spine Assassin Rachael Hael, and her archon (angel) friend Dill, the supposed hero of the books.

What I like about it is that, much like The Name of The Wind (see below), Campbell manages to have an exciting, thought-provoking story without resorting to cliches. Rachael Hael is constantly second-guessing herself as any sort of warrior at all, let alone a hero... Dill was raised by the church to believe he was a heroic warrior fighting for good, when in fact he was never trained and spends most of the book cowering in fear and not knowing what to do next.

But despite the cover blurbs focusing on Dill and Rachael, it's really more of an ensemble story, with all sorts of memorable characters--my favourite being John Anchor, a huge beast of a man who is eternally tethered to his god's floating ship, forced to drag it around the world.

The Name of the Wind is, quite simply, the best fantasy book I've ever read. Easily on the level of a Tolkein, Patrick Rothfuss has created the very definition of a page turner, one that doesn't even delve that deeply into the story of Kvoth before the book abruptly ends--and you want more, and you want it now.

The characters are richly realized and the settings are vivid, but what makes this work so amazing is how it turns fantasy cliches on their head. At every turn, Rothfuss has us believing the book is heading down the path of "Yet Another Sword of Truth" or "Yet Another Ring of Time" or "Yet Another Lord of the Rings," only to give us an exciting, surprising, and often funny twist. The entire book is based around Kvoth telling his life story, growing up as (basically) a carnie, then being drawn into magic school (including a few jabs at Harry Potter, which I always approve of), falling in love, searching for those who killed his parents, etc etc etc... And while his legend is that of an amazing, unstoppable, all-powerful warrior, the truth comes out in poignant, thought-provoking ways, and we see a much more human, much more vulnerable, and much more BELIEVABLE hero than any in Fantasy before this.

It frustrates me beyond belief that the sequel has been pushed back to April, instead of coming out now... But I don't blame the author. I just eagerly await it. GET. THIS. BOOK.

Also, two good suggestions for motorsports enthusiasts reading this. The first is the biography of Wendell Scott, called Hard Driving. The first African-American to play a major role in auto racing in North America, and thus far the only black man to win a NASCAR Cup race, the book tells about his hardships growing up, racing at the local dirt tracks, and gradually clawing his way tooth and nail into Grand National, all the while dealing with obscene levels of racism and segregation, up to and including having his win ignored, only to be awarded it a few days later. The story gives a whole new meaning to the word perseverance.

I would also highly recommend Crashed and Byrned, the autobiography of Tommy Byrne, the "greatest racing driver you never saw." An outrageous story of his life growing up penniless in Ireland, clawing is way into victory lane and dominating the lower rungs of open wheel racing on talent alone, and his crushing failure to land a seat in Formula 1. An honest, hilarious and sometimes frustrating look into what makes a racer a racer, and why racing at the world's highest level often has little to do with how good you actually are. The book is laugh-out-loud funny.

I strongly recommend both of these books to any aspiring racer--they both give us a great look into what makes us want to do what we do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Danica Patrick - Don't Hate the Player, Hate Her PR Department

If there's one thing that annoys me more than Danica Patrick hype, it's Danica Patrick haters.

Here's a woman who, with the exception of Shirley Muldowney in drag racing, has come further than any woman before her. But like everything since the dawn of the Internet, there has to be haters, who hate for the sake of hating. I hate the PR machine that won't shut up about her--but Danica herself? Hell of a racer.

She won a bunch of championships in the World Karting Association, then jumped to European Formula Ford, where she finished second at the annual FF Festival--the highest finish for a woman ever. Then she jumped back to America to compete in Toyota Atlantics, with a pole position and consistent podiums.

At this point she was, admittedly, fast-tracked to the IRL by Rahal-Letterman--they saw not only a lot of talent, but a marketing machine that would bring the Indy Racing League to prominence. The IRL's decision, and the race team's decision. Danica, being smart enough to realize the career she was about to have, goes for it.

Although the haters complained she was too green.

She ran fastest in practice at Indy in her rookie year, led briefly, and finished 4th. In case that hasn't sunk in, I'll repeat it--she finished 4th, at what many consider the world's greatest race, in her rookie year, and as a woman.

She finished the season with two pole positions, Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, and IRL Rookie of the Year. Those, in themselves, were huge accomplishments.

Although the haters complained about her not winning.

Her second year with Rahal-Letterman was not as successful, thanks to a switch to the inferior Dallara chassis. She still managed a couple of 4th place finishes though.

Although the haters complained about her not winning, despite the crap car.

Her switch to Andretti-Green the following season proved fruitful, as she finished with 3 podiums, 4 top 5s and 11 top 10s.

Although the haters complained about her not winning, despite jumping into a new car and being forced to race against two of the best open wheelers in the world, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.

2008 would prove to be the banner year, as she became the first woman to win a major open wheel race in history at Twin-Ring Motegi. Was it a fuel mileage win? Sure. But since when is a win not a win? Some haters would have you believe that, but the fact is, she conserved fuel well, she communicated with her team well, and she ran smoother and better than anyone else on the track. The win was well deserved.

And have you watched the IRL lately? The only way to pass ANYONE is in the pits, with FUEL MILEAGE STRATEGY. Is anyone hating on Scott Dixon for winning a few dozen races with fuel mileage?

The rest of her season was up and down but she finished 6th in points.

Although the haters complained it was a fuel mileage win and she should've won more races.

2009 was her best year statistically, as she finished 5th in points (barely missing 4th place) with a 3rd place finish at the Indy 500, beating her previous best and the best for a woman.

Although the haters complained she should've beat Penske and Ganassi and won races--even when no one else beat Penske and Ganassi either.

Now... Only one win you say? Fair enough. But have any of you watched the IRL in the last two years? It's a joke--I should write a separate post about that some day... But for now suffice to say that it's completely and utterly dominated by two teams, Chip-Ganassi and Penske, to the point of absurdity. Every race in 2009 was won by one of the two teams, with the minor exception of Justin Wilson's win at Watkins Glen (which Briscoe would've run away with had it not been for a pit road error)... And Danica finished 5th in points, the "best of the rest", as it were.

Think about that--with the exception of the two dominant, highest-budget, best-paying "super teams", Danica was the best driver on the track. She finished higher than Dan Wheldon (former Champ), higher than her teammates Tony Kanaan (former Champ) and Marco Andretti (an Andretti), higher than guys like Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal (road course aces). They call Penske, Ganassi and AGR the "BIG THREE" but to be fair, in the last TWO seasons it's really been the BIG TWO.

So, let's summarize:

  1. She's thrust into the lime light at a very early age with decent, but not amazing success in the lower tier racing series
  2. She's IRL Rookie of the year and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, finishing the highest a woman ever has
  3. She becomes the first woman to win a major motorsports race (not counting rallying and NHRA)
  4. She finishes progressively better in the points standings every season
  5. With those progressively better finishes comes a progressively better attitude--still aggressive, but less of a bitch about it.
  6. She finishes 5th in points in 2009, the best driver NOT driving a Ganassi or Penske car

Yet the haters hate on.

They complain that she's a bimbo and doesn't care about racing because she's done a couple of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues. Seriously? So when ESPN Magazine approached Carl Edwards about doing a photo shoot with his shirt off, that was okay? Every racing driver does PR--the more popular you are, the more PR you do. She's the most successful female driver in history not named Shirley Muldowney; thus, she is popular. I guarantee she did not approach SI to do a swimsuit issue, they approached her. This was not Playboy. This was not Hustler. This was a tasteful sports magazine that would improve her marketing worth, and put the IRL in the spotlight. It was a smart business.

And she's hot.

Yet the haters hate on.

Even when she shows up at the racetrack, every weekend, with her game face on, completely different than the woman you see in front of the camera during the week. She's all business, she doesn't take shit from anyone, and she races hard. She also has respect and graciousness for her team, Andretti Autosport, as she signed a new deal with them, even though she's in an inferior car. She wants to work with it and make it better.

Yet the haters hate on.

Now she's possibly going to run a partial Nationwide and ARCA schedule to test her hand at stockcars. Can you blame her? The IRL is a dead end. With the exception of the 500, no one gives half a shit about the IRL. The racing is obscenely boring, the rules package is getting them nowhere, and if you're in a white/orange car or a white/red car, you're basically racing for 5th place. If she were to hop to NASCAR, whether full time or not, she can a) make more money b) grow her fanbase and c) probably be put in equipment capable of winning a race or two. And while she's at it, do what a lot of open wheel guys haven't been capable of--succeeding in stockcars.

Yet the haters hate on.

So I'll continue to watch her career with appreciation. She's got plenty of years ahead of her, and if she gets into equipment that can win, she will win. And that's all that really matters to her, I think.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fix the Tracks, Racing Will Get Better

Remember the 80s? Hell, remember the 90s? The term "cookie cutter" didn't exist yet. Charlotte was a relatively unique 1.5 mile tri-oval, with a challenging and bumpy surface. Atlanta and Michigan were still virtually the same, but both fast to the point that they were scary. We still had Rockingham and North Wilkseboro, two awesome, challenging small tracks.

Now what do we have? We have greed ruining the schedule. What else is new. Darlington lost one of its race dates, only the most important race on the schedule next to the Daytona 500. The Southern 500 is one of the most prestigious races in the world, and now it's disappeared and neutered. And it was IMPORTANT to have it on Labour Day, during the DAY--it was a grueling, sweaty, 110 degree endurance race. It was never meant to be in the evening, and more importantly, never meant to be at such a crappy track as California.

Rockingham loses its race to Yet Another Cookie Cutter track, claiming it was because they couldn't sell the place out--of course, now, they can't sell out a lot of tracks, including California, which replaced it--OOPS.

These are two tracks responsible for many of the "best finishes in racing history"... And they're dropped because of the almighty dollar. I hate that.

Las Vegas, California, Chicagoland, Kansas, Homestead, Michigan... They're all awful now. Louden has never been particularly good, Pocano, at least in the current car, is a bore.

The cookie-cutter tracks are in that middle-ground between short tracks (1 mile or less) and super speedways (restrictor plate), such that they're so aero-dependent that passing often seems a virtual impossibility unless you've got fresher tires or lapped traffic in the way. This is particularly bad at Kansas and Chicagoland.

If I were king of the world, I would decree all of those tracks dropped or reduced--give Michigan one race date, give Charlotte one race date, drop the rest until they can design a real track. Add real tracks with real character--Bring back Rockingham, give Darlington the Southern 500 back... Add Irwindale Speedway, Iowa, Indy Raceway Park, and Winchester. And up here in Canada, Cayuga or Delaware. Any track that doesn't have the facilities yet, pump money into them to upgrade them--it's in NASCAR's best interests to do things like that, not the track owner's.

But maybe that's just me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Hate American Family Values

By which I mean Christian values. And I guess Canadian ones too, to a (much, much) lesser extent?

Every time I read or watch something inspiring from the atheist community, or for that matter any logical, free-thinking sect of society, I think that maybe just maybe there's hope for humanity.

Then I go and read some bullshit like this.

Feel free to read Doctorow's whole editorial if you wish, but I'll summarize briefly. He writes a Young Adults sci-fi/fantasy kind of book about intelligent and patriotic kids who attempt to resurrect the US Government, presumably in a post-apocalyptic world. I haven't read the book. Sounds like something cool I might've read when I was in high school.

Apparently, parents AROUND THE COUNTRY ARE OUTRAGED with an offensive, filthy, DISGUSTING scene in the book that will scar their children FOREVER.

Clearly, I was prepared to read a synopsis about the explicit hardcore sexual details of pre-teen sex from this novel.

During a brief (and apparently REALLY brief) segment of the book, the lead character, who is a 17 year old boy, is making out with his girlfriend. They've been together for quite some time and there's some love there.

She then pulls out a condom and hands it to him.

The scene ends.

The next scene has the boy thinking about the experience, about what he expected and what it actually turned out to be.


Are you fucking kidding me? This is how backwards and retarded Christian family values are. The guy is 17. I dunno about you, but the vast, VAST majority of 17 year old high school teens already know everything there is to know about sex, many have had it, and many are actively seeking it. It's a very important part of growing up, especially at that tender 16-18 age when angst-ridden teens are just getting to understand their hormonal urges.

Which means it's a perfectly acceptable subject for a Young Adult novel, provided it's handled tastefully. Which it was.

The scene is in NO way explicit. It briefly suggests that two people of the same age, who had been seeing each other for a long time, using proper protection, had sexual intercourse.


Apparently some parents also objected to the story because, at one point, a seventeen year old is drinking a beer. GOOD GOD, WHEN WILL THE MADNESS END!?

I'm shocked they didn't mention any of these religious nutjobs complaining about the use of a condom, which is "against God's will."

Oh, and of course, in true American fashion, the book features violence and torture--but no one complained about that. Flash a breast? Immediate ban. Slowly cut strips of flesh off a human being until he bleeds to death? It's allllll good.

Society makes me sick.

(and no, I like me some violence in my stories.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Track is Not the Problem--The Goddamn Restrictor Plate Is

I believe I spoke about how they've ruined Nationwide already... How about plate racing?

In the late 80s, Bobby Allison had an insane wreck at Talladega, taking out part of the catch fence and nearly killing people in the crowd, upside down in pieces. As a result, NASCAR mandated restrictor plates, which cut the flow of air underneath the carburetor, going into the engine. At the time, it was a perfectly reasonable, short-term solution to the problem. For one or two seasons.

Now, here we are, twenty some-odd years, with the same SHORT-TERM SOLUTION. What the restrictor plate does is even out the field--cars built by guys like Hendrick and Roush SHOULD have a 20-30 hp advantage over the slow guys in the field, with varying powerbands and different peaks and dips in the power band... Instead they might have 1.5-2 horsepower difference over the field, as an "advantage."

This results in two things: obviously, it means the cars qualify very very close to each other and, in the draft, run nose-to-tail, 3-wide, for 10-12 rows of cars all the way back. It's understandably nerve-wracking for the drivers, white-knuckle that close to each other for a whole race.

The other thing it causes is something not a lot of people seem to talk about THESE days, but when the aero is that bad (say, 1999-2000), they mention it quite a bit--throttle response. Restrictor plates don't just kill horsepower, they kill the power band. They make it difficult to have any passing power, to have any movement in the throttle to allow for the tiniest differences in speed between two cars. As a result, if you DARE to lift, you will not only lose the draft, but lose dozens of positions. This makes it incredibly difficult to avoid even the slightest mistake without slowing up the whole field and, of course, causing The Big One.

But we all know that, right? The simple fact is, Dale Earnhardt would probably still be with us today if it weren't for restrictor plates. And so many other accidents would've never happened. But too many idiot "fans" are fascinated by the accidents, and NASCAR knows this, especially the casual fan (which is the only fan Brian France seems to care about anymore), so they keep the plates where they are. They don't do it for safety, they do it for the exact opposite of safety.

Is 230 mph excessive? Sure! I understand the need for lower speeds for safety. But it could be achieved in so many other ways, including massive wings front and rear on the car to drag it down, or mandating smaller displacement engines, basically shrinking the current engine in every way. More expensive? Bullshit--the big Cup teams spend millions just developing plate engines already, it would change NOTHING. Have a 4.5 litre limit on super speedway engines, making about 500 horsepower, instead of 900. Or a spec camshaft package. Problem solved.

Knocking down the banking is NOT a solution. For one thing, it would ruin one of the most awe-inspiring racetracks in the world. It would turn it into "Yet Another 1.5 Mile Crapoval" where the racing sucks, or like Fontana or Homestead. The problem is not the cars running 195 mph. The problem is the cars running 195 mph in packs of 30.

That's my thought for the day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Hate Talladega

I was all set to write a five page-long diatribe about how completely fucked racing at Talladega is, and how completely wrong NASCAR is, and how completely stupid fans are that find this exciting or "good racing."

I've done it many times before, on many other blogs, forums, chats, and in person at parties.

But, I made the mistake of reading David Caraviello's editorial about it first. And if there's one thing I hate, it's repetition.

He pretty much sums it up for me, and I agree with him.

I hate Talladega.

I hate everything it's come to represent.

I hate the fans who find it entertaining.

I hate it for putting 43 drivers in mortal, terrifying danger every year.

I hate that the media uses footage of these wrecks to exemplify NASCAR and try to boost the ratings, when people are injured in this footage, sometimes spectators, like Edwards' crash in the Spring.

And I hate NASCAR for completely ignoring the problem and, worse still, blaming the drivers.

So take a gander at Caraviello's piece. Works good for me.

I will also add the following:

Your current, reigning, and soon-to-be 4-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson putted around at the back of the field the entire day, somewhere in 30th-32nd spot, off the lead draft. His three rivals for the championship all mix it up at the front, racing for the lead like racers.

With about 5 laps to go, Ryan Newman's terrifying ride occurs. Red flag comes out, then a caution, and half the field runs out of gas. All of a sudden, Jimmie Johnson makes up half his deficit and is 15th or so.

With about 1 lap to go, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch get turned in the middle of the straightaway, and Mark flips into his roof. Thankfully, no one is hurt. This time. Again. All of a sudden, Jimmie Johnson makes up the rest of his deficit and finishes 6th. Having done nothing all day.

Meanwhile, all of his Chase rivals, who raced their asses off all day long, end up in massive wrecks and are now essentially out of the running for the championship.

I don't blame Jimmie Johnson. Just like I don't blame his team for being better in the final ten races than any other time in the season. They're working with what NASCAR gives them. I blame NASCAR.

This is not racing. This is a joke.

V - Another show Republicans can call "Left Wing Propaganda"

(minor spoilers!)

Watched the premiere of "V" last night with Tara. Pleasantly surprised--excellent production values, a pretty big-time cast, and damn good special effects. And I <3> Elizabeth Mitchell.

In general it felt a little rushed to me, and many others have said so--but that might just be due to watching shows like LOST and BSG so much. We come to expect shows like this to overwhelm us with unanswered questions in every single episode, with the big reveal not happening until end of season or end of show.

The original V Mini-series managed to hold some suspense as to the true identities of the aliens until half way through, hinting at subtle machinations in high places of power throughout the world (scientists having their civil rights blocked left right and center.) The new V beats you over the head with their reptilian identity, and they're already getting into their Nazi/New World Order-type media control.

Which of course means the right-wing nutjobs will immediately label it propaganda. Then again, left-wing nutjobs might label it propaganda that paints Obama's "hope" thing in a negative light too. But like all good speculative fiction, there's a hint of truth and history in there, 1984-style--you'll believe what we tell you.

But like I said, we might just be too used to shows that introduce a twist every five seconds--let's face it, there's still plenty of things left to be revealed (like the Visitors' actual motives), and so far it's going quite well. I'm cautiously optimistic. Plus, along with Elizabeth Mitchell, there's lots of other nice things to look at--like Morena Baccarin.

And did I mention Elizabeth Mitchell is in it?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Car of Tomorrow is a Complete Failure

I Don't know where to even begin on the so-called "Sprint" Cup. I can objectively comment on the season as I normally do, discussing driver this and team that, but when it comes right down to it, the racing sucks. The tracks have something to do with it, but mostly, it's the "Car of Tomorrow."

How about the Car of Sorrow? Is this an ugly turd or what? What, exactly, does any manufacturer have in terms of incentive to stay with the series? The engines are damn near spec and have very little in common with any production piece (although you can buy the basic components from a performance dealer), and the bodies have absolutely NOTHING in common with their real-world versions--so where is the "Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday?" Does Toyota or Chevy honestly think people see the race on Sunday, then go buy a Camry or Impala SS because it won on the track? It's this same "head-in-the-sand" oblivious reasoning that's killing the entire industry.

I am NOT one of those close-minded fools who thinks they should LITERALLY go back to racing *stock* cars. Those days are gone. In the 70s, NASCAR saw that V8, RWD vehicles were going the way of the dinosaur for the average North American family (they held out, but it's still true today), and had to decide "Should we switch to front wheel drive, 4 cylinder shitboxes?"

Thankfully, they said no and stuck to their format, and the entire stockcar racing industry followed suit--which is why we still race 1980s Monte Carlos and Camaros. And while it sucks that we're running out of body panels and good doners--would you rather be racing these cars, or Honda Accords around Daytona? I don't like the idea of a Daytona 500 taking 14 hours to complete, I dunno about you.

To fix the problem? It's really very simple. Two rules:

1. Engines must have production cylinder head and block. If there's less horsepower, so be it. Eventually, the engine builders will find a way to make more. Check the casting numbers, it must be a block and a set of heads you can buy over the counter.

Make fuel injection mandatory--the "cost" argument" is pointless and never made sense, EFI these days will cost virtually the same as the development and dyno tuning of those carburetors. Mandate a sealed ECU if you want, but these things need to be EFI. And, should the manufacturer wish it, OHC as well. Why not have an LS7-based engine with pushrods in the Chevys, while the Toyotas and Fords run their production-based OHC versions? There are other ways to make the engines somewhat equal, to help level the playing field.

2. Mandate that production sheetmetal must be used, with minor alterations. In other words, NOT like 1960s NASCAR, but like 1980s NASCAR. Keep the chassis, keep the wheelbase, keep all that, but put the PRODUCTION BODY on top--whether it's from a FWD family car or not, it doesn't matter, but it should LOOK like a car you can buy on the street. The last cars to do this were the Thunderbird and 80s Monte Carlo. Even the Lumina. It was the Taurus that first broke out of this idea. This would encourage manufacturers to try out bold new aerodynamic designs, or put unlikely bodies onto their stockcars (ie. Toyota might find the Solara body better than the Camry body.)

I like the idea that the COT is safer. Fine, we get that. But it's ugly as hell and, more importantly, the aero is a complete failure that makes the car push like a dumptruck. And what does NASCAR do when teams try to fix it, like Roush last year with the "crab walk" stance? BAN THE FIXES. It's ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fix the Nationwide Series! Remember Junior vs Kenseth?

Kyle Busch looks like a definite lock for the championship this season--and even if he does somehow fail in a blaze of glory, it'll just be Cousin Carl picking up the trophy again anyway.

Remember the old Busch series? Remember it in the 90s? That was good times. Randy LaJoie, back when winning two championships in a row was an impressive feat, for BACE Motorsports. He was the man to beat, when you were moving up through the ranks. Mike McLaughlin, Joe Jemecheck, Tim Fedewa, grizzled veterans that were the measuring stick, rather than running around being lapped by Cup teams in disguise.

Remember Dale Jr. and Matt Kenseth? People often forget they fought for their Cup seats the hard way--they raced hard against each other for two seasons in the Busch series, to prove themselves. They each had a bunch of wins in both 98 and 99, and finished very closely in the championship. It's what the series was supposed to be about.

Now it's a shadow of its former self. Thankfully, they haven't adopted The Car of Sorrow themselves yet, although they now have a design in the works. Cup regulars dominate just about everything, and the few Nationwide regulars who manage to win races either do so because they're road course experts (Ambrose last year), or because they're driving for a Cup team in disguise anyway (Keselowski.) Not that I'm taking anything away from them, a win is a win.

The Busch Series used to race on maybe half the tracks Cup raced on. Now they race on virtually all of them, so the uniqueness is gone from the series. Remember Myrtle Beach? Nazareth? Those were the days. At least they race Montreal though, and still get the odd standalone race at Milwaukee and St Louis. That's cool.

To fix the series?

1) Either boot the Cup drivers out completely, or force the Cup drivers to race their own private entry cars, with no outside funding or support from their Cup teams. Hard to police, but it's really the only way they could make that work. I like seeing the young guns "prove themselves" against Cup drivers too, but I'd rather see it in somewhere CLOSE to equal machinery.

2) Keep the cars the way they are, but maybe introduce new bodies, like Challengers/Camaros/Mustangs. It looks like it's sort of headed that way with Ford showing off the new Mustang body... But really it just looks like another COT on a standard chassis. Is NASCAR afraid that if they race production-style Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros, that NWS would become more popular than Cup?

3) Go back to cool tracks. Nazareth, Mansfield, Myrtl Beach, Salem... How about a Canadian oval? Delaware or Cayuga would work just fine.

4) Increase the damn purses. Ever compare a NWS purse to a Cup purse? It's a joke. Give these guys something to race for. It makes it even worse when the Cup guys come in and steal what little money the NWS regulars *could* make.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Johnson Dominates the Chase? Then Change the Chase.

David Caraviello had a good point on the other day... Everyone bitches and whines about Jimmie Johnson "always winning" and "dominating." Problem is, Johnson hasn't dominated this season, at all. Tony Stewart did. What Johson's done is dominate the Chase. Every year.

The solution? Caraviello says "Jimmie-proof" the Chase. And he has a point. I will say, coincidentally, virtually very track in the Chase except maybe Talladega are the 48 team's "best tracks." Martinsville, Dover, Fontana and Phoenix in particular, are tracks where The Boring One carries all sorts of records.

It's not like NASCAR has catered the Chase to him on purpose--it wasn't that way the first couple years of the playoff system. Knaus and Johnson are just masters at saving their cards until the end, and building cars and testing specifically for those final ten races. Martinsville in the Spring? Test race for the Chase. Talladega in the Summer? Test race for the Chase. California snooze-fest? Test race for the Chase. Other teams are finally STARTING to realize that the last 10 races are all that really matter, as we see with Martin and Montoya's teams both performing amazing in the Chase too.

But I'd go one step further than Caraviello because, frankly, the Chase layout is a joke. Every track is a challenge to race at--but let's face it, the Chase doesn't have anything in the way of diversity. Loudon, Dover, Kansas, Fontana, Charlotte, Martinsville, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. That's four boring 1.5 Mile Crapovals, three flat short tracks (I consider Loudon and Phoenix short tracks in spirit), Homestead which is also flat and just a bigger version OF those, and then Dover and Talladega. Hell, all four of those flat tracks you can bring the same car to even, and that's probably true of the 1.5 Milers as well.

This is supposed to be a showcase of the 12 best drivers in the world--so why not a little versatility. Which, while we're at it, would also help curb Johnson's dominance. Despite what the announcers would have us believe, Martinsville isn't much of a wild card--if you're in the top 5, you're relatively safe. Jimmie leads hundreds of laps every time they go to Martinsville, so it's not really a "dangerous wild card" for him--lapped cars move out of the way for leaders. It's only dangerous back in the pack.

And where are the road courses? Best drivers in the world indeed--if so, a road course or even two should be in there to really spread it out. Sure Jimmie's got a pole on a road course, but other than a few top fives here and there, he hasn't done a whole lot. A road course would let aces like Montoya, Gordon and Martin make up a little ground on him. IMO, the Chase should basically showcase all five kinds of racetracks, times two (with an exception or two). THAT would make for an interesting Chase.

Here's my kind of Chase:

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Sure, Montreal is a bit of a stretch, but if they don't come up here for a race, fine, then put something like VIR or Barber Motorsports Park in there.

Start the sweep up in Canada, then move to Michigan (as early in the schedule as possible for weather reasons), where Johnson doesn't have a whole lot of success. Then to Loudon, it's a tricky track one way or another. Then to Rusty Wallace's AMAZING track in Iowa, which needs a Cup date as SOON as possible (and it's basically a short track.) Then Martinsville for obvious reasons. Then the Charlotte night race, might as well keep the tradition. Then as it starts to get colder, we head south. First to Sonoma California for the second road course, a place where Johnson is typically hopeless. Then the wild card of Talladega, which needs to be in the Chase for just that very reason. Then another flat track at Phoenix, and then finish up at usual at Homestead.

That's two road courses, two short tracks, two 1.5 mile Crapovals, two weird/unique 1 mile flat ovals, one super speedway and one 2 mile flat track.

Now suddenly you only have Phoenix, Martinsville, and I guess Charlotte where Johnson typically runs REALLY well. And you have the kind of schedule that would be a TRUE challenge to the best drivers in the world.

And don't tell me NASCAR can't do it because of scheduling and sponsorship rights. NASCAR can do whatever the hell it wants with the schedule with enough effort.

DO IT, NASCAR. Show some balls.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why NASCAR Pit Stops are Better Than Formula One Pit Stops

Every time Peter Delorenzo opens his mouth about NASCAR, one of his biggest gripes is the pit stops--he claims that NASCAR pit stops should be Formula One or FIA GT style... Center-post jacks in the car, single-lug hubs, and automatic fuel rigs with the big giant hose.

Has he seen this?

Or for that matter, the most notorious one:

BEYOND the fact that NASCAR pit stops are exciting, heart-pounding athletic contests that are every bit as entertaining as the racing... DeLorenzo's argument is that modern fueling and pit stop systems are safer. When was the last time you saw fires like this in a NASCAR race? I can only count one pit fire in recent memory off the top of my head, and it wasn't even involving the car itself. It seems like Formula One can't go two races without running someone over in the pits or having a catastrophic explosion.

And how does it so often happen? The fuel hose gets stuck, rips or separates and spews fuel everywhere.

Yeah, I think I'll put my vote in for the beautiful athletic perfection of a NASCAR pit stop, with only two tire changers, an impact gun, a jackman and 20 lug nuts. Epic:

Oh and look at that. One little sprinkle of fuel on the trunklid. Oops.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grand-Am vs ALMS - Not a hard choice...

The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series brought another successful season to a close last weekend, and proved yet again why it's truly the premiere road racing circuit in North America.

The Gainsco Racing Pontiac-Riley duo of Alex Gurney (yes, of that Gurney family) and John Fogerty took the points lead the previous weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, and led by a handful of points over the Suntrust team of Max Angelleli and Brian Frisselle, and the Ganassi boys, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. All three teams were mathematically in contention for the championship, with Gainsco basically needing to finish 4th or better, while the others basically had to win.

And what a race, at Homestead-Miami's infield road course--as usual, despite being an endurance racing series, it seems like regardless of race distance, there's tons of side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper action with lots of passing in the Prototype division. The Gainsco boys did exactly what they had to, finishing 4th to take the championship, with both their chief rivals leading laps and running, at different points, in the top 5. In the end the Brumos Porsche of Joao Barbosa and legend Hurley Haywood took an aggressive win over the Ganassi car, who ended up finishing second overall in points as a result.

Over on the GT side, where they race essentially production cars you can buy from a dealer, another podium for the Farnbacher-Loles Porsche team of Leh Keen and Dirk Werner garnered them the championship, while the win went to the Pontiac G6 of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, their first of the season (they were the 2008 champs.)

The action was fierce, there was racing all over the track, and the intensity and suspense in the Prototype division was thick enough to cut with a knife, for the entire 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile, over on the ALMS side, we have the overpriced, overhyped, boring LMP1 class that look boring, sound boring and rarely see each other on track, relying instead of pit strategy. Five cars competed all season. In LMP2, which for all intents and purposes to the average fan are the same damn cars with a little less horsepower, two cars competed for the championship.

WHY was there even an LMP2 class? If I showed up to a race where I only had four, or ONE, other car to race against, I'd pack it up and leave. Why are fanboys so defensive of ALMS? Usually the same hopeless Formula 1 "fans" who care only about technology and only about the cars being fast, regardless of the quality of racing.

ALMS used to work under that argument, with Audi, Panoz, Penske Porsche, Intersport, Zytek, Peugeot, Aston Martin, etc etc all competing. But "the economy" basically caused a mass, MASS pullout of damn near all competition as of last year. The racing was never particularly exciting in the Prototype classes, but at least the technological domination of Audi was somewhat interesting to watch. Penske pulled out and moved over to Grand-Am, all the Audis pulled out, factory or otherwise, all the Peugeots pulled out, factory otherwise, Panoz dropped to GT2 only, etc etc....

de Ferran Motorsports took five wins on the 10-race season... Their nearest competitors (who essentially finished 2nd just about every other time, since there's ONLY FIVE CARS RACING), Highcroft Racing, took three wins... And of course when Audi and Peugoet bothered to show up, each took one overall win. In the LMP2 "class," Fernandez Racing won eight events two Dyson Racing's two--and of course, since ONLY TWO CARS WERE RACING, the opposing car finished 2nd in every other race. WOW!

GT1 used to be interesting too, with Corvette vs Aston Martin and the occasional Saleen or second Vette entry competing... Even though Aston rarely seemed a match for the factory Chevys. Aston pulled out this season, so Corvette dropped down to GT2 to find SOMETHING to do.

And don't get me wrong, the GT2 competition in ALMS is almost worth watching--even had some really tough fender-to-fender racing a few times, noteably at Mosport between Ferrari and Corvette, and at the finale at Laguna Seca, where Jan Magnussen in the Vette and Jörg Bergmeister beat the holy hell out of each other's cars at the end for the win. It was refreshing to see, and really the only stuff worth tuning in for--Ferrari vs Porsche vs Vette vs Panoz vs even a wicked Ford GT!

But honestly, when your premiere division is a boring joke (I can't imagine how the announcers were able to hype it up), and Audi and Peugoet decide to show up for two races (Sebring and Petit LeMans), dominate everyone, and then go home, it's pretty pathetic. So pathetic, that ALMS did the only thing they could and made up what was essentially a grassroots class, the "ALMS Challenge", featuring identical Porsche GT3 cars. And even for that, only six cars showed up.

Meanwhile, over on the Grand-Am side, the side that a lot of so-called "fans" make fun of for having a "spec" prototype series (which isn't at all accurate), the "NASCAR of road racing," is doing what NASCAR has been doing for the last 30 years--putting on better racing than everyone else. And also more affordable racing, I might add, which is why teams like Penske jumped ship.

The Prototype class, which uses strict rules similar to NASCAR stockcars (body templates, strict engine rules, etc), still has far, far more engine and chassis manufacturers making it interesting (and also making the haters' arguments null and void) ... Riley, Dallara, Lola, Crawford and Coyote all make chassis for the series, and Ford, Pontiac, Porsche, Lexus, BMW, Chevy and even Honda have all provided engines. When was the last time you saw a series with that kind of variety, yet still having the kind of parity and competition these guys do?

Granted, Gainsco had a great season, but there were still lots of different racers on the podium--The champs won four races, while Krohn Racing (with the ever-exciting Ricardo Zonta), the Ganassi boys, and the Suntrust-Pontiac team each took two wins. Both of the Brumos Porsche teams took one win a piece, to round out the totals. And Brumos' win at the 24 Hours of Daytona (still a cooler race than Sebring, IMO) was over NASCAR driver (and former 24 Hrs LeMans winner) Juan Montoya in the Ganassi entry--who was not only on the same LAP as them after 24 gruelling hours, but finished only about a second behind!

In the GT class, it was just as exciting, if not moreso, than over in ALMS--with Farnbacher-Loles taking four wins, and the rest split between Stevenson Motorsports, TRG, and the two awesome Speedsource Mazda RX-8s. They had their share of wheel-to-wheel action too, including a memorable run-in between Dirk Werner and Robin Liddell for the win at Miller.

The field in each class? Between 18-20 cars in DP and as much as 30 in GT. And starpower? Give that to Grand-Am too, with racers from NASCAR (such as Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson) and the IRL (Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick) showing up to race on numerous occasions.

And while both shows show up in Canada once a year, I have to give the nod to Grand-Am for their race in Montreal, as opposed to ALMS at my beloved Mosport, because Grand-Am just plain puts on a better show--including AIM Autosport's huge win at their home track of Gilles Villeneuve last season.

So explain to me again why ALMS is superior? Gimme a fuckin' break.

At least ALMS got the hint after this season. Apparently next year they're consolidating the two Prototype classes, so there'll be one prototype class and one GT class. But hey, if you look at the current car count, that still only means seven cars--oh wait never mind, Fernandez Racing is closing because they can't afford to race in the series. So there goes another team. I wonder if they'll show up in the more affordable, more competitive Grand-Am series?

Next season's really looking up for Grand-Am though, as DP will be as exciting as ever (especially with Penske still hunting for their first win--The Captain probably wasn't too happy with the '09 season)...

AND the #07 Drinkin' Mate team is switching to Pratt&Miller-built Camaros, which will be AWESOME to see dicing with the Mazdas and Porsches. They were already campaigned in the latter races of the KONI Challenge Series (In Penske/Donahue colours no less!), renewing the Camaro/Mustang rivalry there. Should be awesome!

Monday, October 12, 2009

TV This Fall...

Some good, some bad. And of course, possible cancellations for the good. My problem is that I'm running out of time to watch so much TV!

Defying Gravity

Surprise surprise, haven't even finished ONE season, and the networks have given up on it. ABC swears it's not cancelled, and that they're just looking for a timeslot... The only network even playing the rest of the episodes is SPACE here in Canada.

And of course, it's just getting good. The first couple of episodes were like soap opera in space, just going over the character's relationships while in my opinion, ignoring all the good sci-fi stuff. But the last few episodes have turned it up a notch, now that they've discovered the "real reason" for the mission. I'm starting to care about the characters, they've really been flushed out--so, of course, time to be cancelled.

Or, at least I hope not.


Moments of laugh-out-loud humour, particularly when Chevy Chase is involved. The guy's still got it, as long as it's sketch or situational comedy like this is. The lead is your typical spiky-haired no-gooder "cool" guy, but the supporting cast helps make it funny. Hopefully this lasts longer than most NBC comedy shows.

Jay Leno

Being a car guy, I find Jay Leno is probably the coolest man on Earth. But as a tv show host? He's the most boring man alive, and possibly the second-least-funniest, next to a modern-day Eddie Murphy. He wasn't funny at 11:30, he isn't funny now. Thank god for Conan O'brien, who has more funny in his left testicle than Jay ever had.


I'm a huge fan of RJS' book, so I'm.... cautiously optimistic here. The first few episodes have made it radically different from the book, with a few in-jokes for his fans. There have been some things a little hard to stomach--like the fact that we only seem to have a few FBI agents investigating a world-wide scientific phenomenon (I mean, one episode like that would be fine, but we're almost four episodes in and not a single physicist has been appointed to help out?)... And then the glaring question of how the hell they're going to make this an ongoing tv series when the story seems to pan out in one, MAYBE two seasons tops... Still, worth checking out, for now.


Just began season 2, picking up just as good as it ended. I may do a future post on this, about how Fringe is a better X-Files (twice the storyline, half the bullshit), but for now suffice it to say, go check out Season 1 if you haven't, to catch up. Damn good stuff.


Also starting season 2, sort of a cross between Alias and The Prisoner, I'm just getting into Season 1 now, but I'm already glad to see they renewed it. Gorgeous lead in a super-agent role, with a really deep backstory/conspiracy going on. Good stuff.

The Office

Still the funniest show on TV. Period.


So... SO HARD... To keep watching. But it's like crack... No matter how much you hate it, you keep coming back. Season 2 was trash, season 3 didn't help much... It looks like this season has become a "wipe the slate and start over" deal... Which could be good. But having Sylar stuck in a "pretend Nathan" body isn't helping... And I still find anything involving Hiro so annoying I have fast forward through it.

But I keep coming back for Sylar and Noah.

Friday, October 9, 2009

JP Montoya - Rodney Dangerfield of Motorsports?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person left with any respect and appreciation of talent.

Some people can't seem to stop saying "well he's a factor in The Chase" followed by something to the effect of "but he's got these other five guys who are the favourites."

They keep that little niggle of doubt in the back of their head every time they discuss his chances. I'm by no means saying that he's gonna win the championship either (although I joked that he would be your 2009 Champ with ZERO wins), but if he does, it sure as hell wouldn't surprise me.

People seem to forget this man is a CART title holder, back when CART actually meant something in the 90s. Some of the best racing in the world took place there, and JPM flat out dominated, with seven wins in his rookie season giving him the Championship, after a tie in points with Dario Franchitti, who had three wins. Ganassi then switched to Toyota power for the 2000 season, where engine reliability plagued the team. Despite this, he still led more laps than anyone else on the season and won three more races.

When the IRL decided to allow CART teams to compete in the Indy 500 that year, Jimmy Vasser and JPM were tagged as the "invaders." Many IRL drivers labeled Montoya as "wreckless" and figured he'd crash out of the event. He led 167 of 200 laps to claim the win as an Indy rookie, the first man to do so since Graham Hill in 1966.

It was always the same in Formula One, too. Whether driving for the relative underdog Williams team or McLaren, he always impressed, but was labeled as a hot head. Yes, fine, he was inconsistent, but this is a guy who won The Monaco Grand Prix in a Williams, beating Ferrari and McLaren at their own game. Much like Jacques Villeneuve never got respect, many racing fans never gave JPM the respect he deserved either.

Consider: this is one of only a handful of guys (Coulthard, Hakkinen, Alonso) to take the fight right to Michael Schumacher, often in inferior equipment, and BEAT the guy. In his rookie season for Williams, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Montoya shocked the world with an audacious, aggressive pass on the German world champ into Turn 1. He then held him off the entire race, before unfortunately being collected in a wreck with a lapped car.

In 2002, a season where Ferrari won 15 of 17 races, Montoya was often the only driver to DIRECTLY compete with Schumacher on track, wheel to wheel, and succeed. Though he didn't win a race that year, he was the "best of the rest". He also set the fastest lap ever recorded in Formula 1 at Monza, 162.949 MPH.

He left Williams on a high note in 2004, winning his final race with them, the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. He then joined McLaren, where difficulty in learning the car's quirks, and communication issues with the team, gave him poor finishing results. Still, he eventually ironed out the difficulties, winning his first GP for McLaren at Silverstone. Toward the end of the year, he scored three wins, two poles and five podiums in seven starts. This proved that Montoya was not only fast, but able to build on a poor car and make it work. He had a poor season with lots of bad luck and on-track incidents in 2006 and left Formula 1 for NASCAR. Despite his successes, many race fans bid him good riddance from Formula 1.

Which, again is a shame. Since then, he started Nationwide and ARCA races to get accustomed to stockcars, and won his home race in Mexico City in the Nationwide series. The same year started with a win in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He then made the jump full time to the Cup series, where he won (on a fuel mileage gamble that still required him to pass a dozen or so cars to get back to the front) at Sonoma.

His first two seasons were all over the place, but he and crew Chief Brian Pattie persevered, and when 2009 came around, Montoya went about bettering just about every prior finish in his career, finishing consistently in or near the top 10, putting himself solidly in The Chase. Did he race conservative? Did he "points race?" Not if you look at Indy, where he dominated the race, leading the most laps and was on his way to victory when a pit lane speeding penalty ruined the day. Not if you look at his races afterward, with aggressive, fender-to-fender moves at Pocono and Watkins Glen. And did you see him move through the field at Kansas last weekend?

So no, he hasn't won an oval track race yet. But if that was "points racing," the competition should be scared. Since the Chase started, he's the only guy to finish in the top 5 in every race, and he's RIGHT THERE in points. As I jokingly said before, it'd be hilarious to see him win the Championship with no wins, just to prove how dumb the Chase is. But whether he wins or not, he has a legitimate shot.

And while I've never been a huge fan of his, per se, he's grown on me more and more by the day. One of the few personalities left in NASCAR, he speaks his mind, he's aggressive on the track without being stupid, and is just plain exciting to watch. At the same time, he's not an elitist Formula 1 douchebag--he hangs out with fans, he hangs out with his family and friends in the pits, he's likable and sociable, and most importantly, he's humble and realizes he's learning more and more about stockcar racing every day.

And despite what a lot of "haters" like to think, the dude won the Formula 3000 Championship, the CART Championship (and ten CART wins), the Indy 500, the Monaco Grand Prix (and seven Grand Prixs total), took the fight to the "immortal" Michael Schumacher like few ever did, won the 24 Hours of Daytona TWICE, and won as a rookie at the highest level of stockcar racing in North America.

JPM is for real. He may not be the champion this year, but he'll be a contender until he decides to the hang up the helmet, I think.

Oh, and his Juicy Fruit commercial is fuckin' hilarious:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One of my favourite interviews about one of my favourite books.

"How does a man go to work at a lab all day, and then go home and believe in the talking snake?"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alonso Signs With Ferrari (Shocker!)

Cuz, y'know, they've only been talking about it since February.

Alonso's just about the closest thing to Michael Schumacher left in Formula 1--cold, calculating, knows the business side of it just as well as the driving side of it. How he didn't end up at Ferrari earlier I'll never know, but I respect the loyalty he showed to Renault. And he did bring them two world championships, beating Schumacher in the process, which is nothing to scoff at.

I'm still not sure about Raikkonen in the McLaren though--he was never one to play second fiddle, although he ended up doing so in 2008, to Massa. Still, I'm glad to see him back there with my favourite team, and for the first time since maybe 1998, I'm actually excited about the UPCOMING F1 season--the prospect of Ferrari and McLaren having figured out their cars, going head to head with Brawn and probably Red Bull. Sebastien Vettel will be a threat for wins, but I still think Red Bull is too inconsistent to challenge seriously for the title. But much like this year and last, we're looking at the possibility of four different teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn, Red Bull) winning races, and a serious possibility of seven or eight drivers taking race wins.

Certainly a far cry from the boredom of Schumacher's reign...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Public Race Where I Wasn't Wrecked by a n00b...

Shocking, I know, but it does happen. For someone who races so much in leagues like myself, getting in on a public sim-race is usually just a recipe for anger and futility. The average public racer is typically 12 years old, or at least seems to act like it, and half the field wrecks on lap 1.

But this time I actually had a fun, quick, 16 lap race at Charlotte in a Car of Tomorrow (VHR). I started 9th and passed a few cars, with a few other cars dropping out, and found myself in this battle for 3rd/4th/5th with only a couple of laps to go. I had the quicker car of the three of us, but wasn't able to get down the bottom where I was running best. Still, the three of us swapped positions several times and it was a ton of fun to finally have a clean public sim race with equal drivers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Devil's D...

I've always been an asphalt racer, both in my limited time as a driver and my career in the pits. Up north dirt tracks just aren't that popular. But once I moved down south here, I went to Ohsweken Speedway for the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals, and was blown away. I can't comment about DRIVING on it, as I haven't done that yet, but from an entertainment perspective, it's hard to beat really fast cars on a dirt track. Even the 4 cylinder and Street Stock classes put on an awesome show.

Since we took a break from putting the car together for next year, Tara and I decided to check out the one track in this area we hadn't been to yet: South Buxton Raceway, located near Merlin, Ontario. This was in the middle of September of course, but the night was cool without being cold.

We watched all four classes (Pure Stock 4, Pro Stock, Modifieds and Late Models) race for their season finale championship. I came away with a real appreciation for the technicality of a dirt track.

First off, I must make it clear that the track was in HORRIBLE shape. Having been to Ohsweken on a number of occasions, we never had anything but crystal clear visibility, amazing track conditions with just the right amount of tack, very little dust, and tons of speed. South Buxton was a whole other animal--it was greasy, slippery, and dusty as all hell. To make matters worse, we had forgotten to bring the safety glasses we usually do. Sitting in Turn 4 we got pelted with dust--no clay clobs, just dust. In the middle of a feature it was hard to see the entire field at certain times. I was told by a regular fan sitting next to me in the stands that it's often quite better than this--I hope so.

But having said that, I enjoyed myself. The track's 3/8 mile layout is quite unique; taking from its nickname, "The Devil's D", the entire front stretch is curved, while the back stretch is flat. As such, you come out of turn 4 with a ton of speed, gradually drifting wide onto the front "straight," all the while sideways, with your L/F tire up in the air. You're never actually straight. Then you dive hard into Turn 1, drift up a bit, then slow real hard for the much MUCH sharper Turn 2, slowly ease back on the throttle down the straight back stretch, and then slow heavy for the sharp Turn 3, before getting back on it early out of 4 again.

The picture from Turn 4 is pretty fantastic, as such. Watching a dozen late models blasting down the front stretch, from behind, with their wheels in the air, its a pretty interesting sight, and one you won't see at bigger tracks like Ohsweken. It's really quite surreal and I enjoyed it.

You can see what I mean with this video from turn 4:

The competition is quite good too--it definitely has the "old school country track" feel. The heats are run in Australian Elimination style--if you get passed, you leave the track. No points are awarded, just money. It really gives the drivers incentive to drive 100% at all times, I found it really interesting. Each class had some good competition, and clearly had some heroes and some villians, with drivers getting booed and drivers getting cheered. It made me feel at home, reminding me of North Bay Speedway's heyday. Despite being "just" a normal night with no touring classes, the stands were JAM packed and the 50/50 draw was almost $1000.

This upcoming weekend (September 26th) is their big UMP Late Model/Modified Shootout, which regularly draws 40+ competitors in both classes from Canada and the USA. Chris Ross is your defending winner, the first Canadian to win the Late Model division, and looking to repeat in front of a rabid crowd. I highly recommend you check it out, whether you've been to a dirt track or not--it's an amazing experience.

Just remember to bring safety glasses!

Blog links

Business Directory for London, OntarioTopOfBlogsAutomobile blogsCar Racing Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryYellow Pages for USA and CanadaSim Racing Links