Categories
Commentary

CALINOFF: Making it Happen

I hate clichés.

In fact, I hate the cliché, “I hate clichés.”

You still with me?

But, I’m going to make an exception, just this once: “If you believe, you can achieve.”

I prefer to paraphrase by saying that if there’s something you want in your life, there’s no reason you can’t get it. Or, at the very least, put forth your best efforts. I see it done all the time. I’ve done it myself. I thought that spotting modifieds in New England were as far as I’d get. But I took a chance, moved to North Carolina, made connections, took advice and worked my ass off to get what I wanted. Things have turned out pretty well for me. Better than I’d ever imagined. And, I still work my ass off to get what I want. It’s an exercise in perpetuity.

I also understand that everyone is dealt a different hand, and it’s harder for some than others. However, I believe that everyone can take chances and make decisions to get where they want to go.

I met Kelly Crandall six years ago. I’m embarrassed to say that I forget the circumstances associated with how we crossed paths. I meet a lot of people — so I’m going with that excuse. I hope she doesn’t read this.

But I do know that I was struck by the manner in which she vowed to make it as a NASCAR journalist. She said that she knew it was going to be hard and that, at twenty-years-old, she has a long road ahead. Nevertheless, she’s determined to do whatever it took to get to where she wanted to be. It’s starting to pay off.

A lot has happened over the course of the last six years for Kelly. She wrote blogs that were read by few. She penned stories and columns for different sites that had little, if any, notoriety. It didn’t matter to her. It wasn’t about the byline; it was about the experience.

When I started PopularSpeed.com, it was a no-brainer to bring Kelly on board. I kept on eye on everything she had been writing and watched her grow as a journalist. And I was completely sold on the fact that she was going to be successful.

Kelly has gone from a staff writer to our Executive Editor in short order. Not because I like to throw titles around, but because she’s blossomed into a serious journalist who is also capable of managing a staff of writers. And she does it well. I’m sometimes amazed how she can assign stories, approve concepts and budget time to write her content.

So, I told you all of that – so I can tell you this:

Kelly was presented with a Third Place award at the National Motorsports Press Association Awards Banquet for the “Columns” category. It’s not the Pulitzer Prize, but the writers who were 4th and 5th are very seasoned, well-respected journalists in our sport. It’s a big deal for her.

But it’s a bigger deal for me.

Kelly has been doing what she’s needed to do. She’s in the trenches. She goes after the stories as opposed to waiting for the stories to come to her. She’s doing what it takes to “achieve what she believed” – oops, there it is again – and is proof that if you put in the effort, you get the results.

I’m very proud of her. It’s been fun for me to watch her grow as a writer and see how she carries herself in a manner of someone far beyond her years.

She’s making it happen.

 

You can send her a congratulations note at kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com and follow her @KellyCrandall

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Categories
Commentary

CALINOFF: Kyle Busch Won the Title, But…

The scenarios were set, and the critics were ready to pounce. And regardless of who won the title – the ‘yeah, but…’ factor was going to be in play. I guess that’s where we differ from other sports.

The Royals beat the Mets in Game 5 to win the World Series. They continually scored the most runs over their opponents – and they won the ultimate prize. Kansas City fans were happy, New York fans weren’t. But that’s how it shook out, and everyone went home – with the high hopes for next season.

It doesn’t seem to work that way in NASCAR. There’s always a ‘yeah, but’ if your favorite driver doesn’t fair well. And it was inevitable way before the green flag flew at Homestead.

Here’s what, in my opinion, the potential fallout would have been for the other contenders had they taken home the grand prize.

KEVIN HARVICK WINS: The defending Champ had a strong season – one good enough to bring him to the last dance. Because when it counts, Harvick and company can make that magic happen, right? Yeah, but, that final restart at Talladega allowed him to advance to the next round. He manipulated the end of the race. That’s what we’d be saying.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR. WINS: Truex was the epitome of consistency for most of the year. There was a handful of unfavorable finishes, but he won at Pocono and, at least, ensured himself a spot in playoffs. And in the end, he was able to keep himself in play and make it to the finale, right? Yeah, but, NASCAR wanted a feel-good story. The single-car team operating from afar beats the superpowers. And, what about all that longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, has gone through and her courageous battle with ovarian cancer? That sure would have made a great story. NASCAR wanted that to happen. Somehow, some way, they figured out a way for Truex to be our Champion. That’s what we’d be saying.

JEFF GORDON WINS: There would have been no better story than having the guy who changed the face of NASCAR’s modern era to retire as the Champion. Could you imagine? It would have been the ultimate send-off. It would parallel Tom Seaver, arguably the best starting pitcher in MLB history, throwing a no-hitter in his final game. It would have been the story of stories and a great way to end the season, right? Yeah, but, if Kenseth didn’t knock Logano clear into Roanoke, Gordon wouldn’t have made it to Homestead anyway. His year was up and down. That’s what we’d be saying.

KYLE BUSCH IS THE CHAMPION: Now, we’ve got a lot of ‘yeah, buts’ to contend with:

  1. Busch missed close to the first third of the season. He didn’t run all the races, therefore he’s ineligible. That’s a pretty popular one.
  1. NASCAR changed the rule and gave Busch a waiver. Why? Well, they felt bad about Daytona. There should have been a soft wall where he hit – so they’ll take the blame and exercise their right to make an exception.
  1. There were fill-in drivers who kept the team in contention. Those allegations come from the ignorant. Informed fans understand that driver points and owners points are separate. Erik Jones and David Ragan scored points for the team, but Busch earned every marker that brought him to the final race.

And there were plenty more.

Social media lit up when the final caution was displayed. There was debris under the flag stand and a water bottle on the track, but out of the groove. Was it warranted? I don’t know – but I’m glad I’m not charged with making those calls.

There was an outcry by fans – and some media – that NASCAR wanted the Champion also to win the race. I guess, to some people, that’s a good story.

I don’t easily get my feelings hurt and it’s okay if you disagree — you’re entitled to think what you want.

Kyle Busch hasn’t always cast himself in the best light. He’s come across brash and cocky at times. He doesn’t take losing very well either. He’s had his moments for sure. However, in my opinion, I think he’s done a great deal to shed that persona. Having a well-grounded wife and becoming a dad certainly hasn’t hurt. I’m not looking to change your opinion of him personally but, just for a moment in the interest of objectivity, put aside the past and let’s live in the present.

Kyle Busch missed the first eleven races of the season. He wasn’t stricken with the flu – he broke his right leg and left foot. That would have sidelined most professional sports players for the season. Maybe ended the career of others.

Rookie Sprint Cup Crew Chief, Adam Stevens, had to keep all the plates spinning. He needed to rely on drivers he hasn’t worked with – including a rookie — for feedback to remain competitive. Nothing against the substitutes, but it’s chore to get into a rhythm when you’re accustomed to the information your regular driver is giving you.

Nevertheless, they had some good finishes and tried to build as much momentum as they could, in anticipation of Busch’s return.

Now he’s back.

Five races in, he wins at Sonoma. Legs and feet are pretty important there too.

Two races later, he scores at Kentucky. And then the following week at Loudon. And then the following week at the Brickyard. Still, he’s outside of the top-30 in the standings – the caveat for Chase eligibility.

Busch penetrates and maintains top-30 status at Watkins Glen and then it was game-on.

Aside from a few miscues on pit road, a flat tire or two, scrapes with the wall and a day-ending wreck, Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team positioned themselves to win the Championship.

RELATED: Will Kyle Busch Be the Best Ever?

To those who take an ardent stance on the fact that Busch didn’t run all the races, I ask you to think about this:

Let’s say Carolina Panther’s quarterback, Cam Newton suffers an injury right before the NFL season starts — maybe he fell off his wallet or something. He’s benched for half the season and the back-up guy just needs to help keep the team relevant and competitive during his recovery.

Now, he’s back. And hitting his targets better than ever. Everything is in sync, and they win the Superbowl. Is it legit? They won without their starter. Is Newton the Championship quarterback? He didn’t play in all the games, right?

Yep, I agree, there’s a lot of rhetoric in what you just read. But the facts are the facts and the numbers don’t lie.

If you miss the first 11 races, get yourself into the top-30 in the standings, complete 97.7% of the laps, lead 732 of them, win five races, have a great final pit stop and beat your three opponents – you deserve to be the Champion.

It would have been a good story had Harvick won back-to-back titles. Or Truex showing that consistency still matters or, of course, Gordon going out on top. Those are all great storylines.

But, for me, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing made 2015 a spectacular season on many levels.

It was a testament to teamwork, determination, overcoming adversity, athleticism, and perseverance. It was about keeping your eye on the prize and grabbing it.

This wasn’t just a good story for NASCAR – it was a great story for sports.

 

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Modified Speed Brings Cup Confidence for Preece

LOUDON, NH – @RyanPreece_ knows his Whelen Modified Tour car and his Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet that he’ll race on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway are two different breeds. But, the confidence of being fastest in the final Modified practice spills over to his debut with Premium Motorsports at NASCAR’s top level.

“When it comes to the cars, it’s really apples and oranges,” said Preece, “but knowing that I’ve got a good handle on the track keeps me in a good mindset.”

Preece currently leads the Championship standings in the NASCAR’s oldest division by one point over Woody Pitkat with just three races remaining on the schedule.

Preece, who’s Sprint Cup Series team has support this weekend from Tommy Baldwin Racing, has two different agendas.

“Obviously, we’re trying to win another Modified Championship — so my expectations are really high for Saturday. With the Cup car, our goal is to qualify as best as we can and complete all the laps. We have very realistic goals for Sunday. It’s all about learning as much about these cars as I can. I’m fortunate to have some really good people around me.”

At 25 years old, Preece is at a point in his career where the future is upon him. If he’s going get to the next level he’s going to have to make some good strides.

“The biggest thing for me is to not make mistakes,” said Preece. “Wrecks and mechanical problems are sometimes out of your control, but I’m going to do my job as best I can and get the best possible results.”

One thing that a driver is always responsible for is the effort. And if that’s the measuring stick for Sunday’s success, Ryan Preece should leave the track with the feeling of accomplishment.

Categories
Commentary

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon vs. Kenseth Feud Continued at Chicagoland

Matt Kenseth wasn’t very happy with Jeff Gordon following the USG 400 in 2006.

With four laps remaining and Kenseth leading, Gordon drove his Chevrolet to the bumper of the 2003 Winston Cup Champion and spin him out in turn two. The caution sent the race into overtime with Gordon taking his first victory at the 1.5-miler.

“That wasn’t an accident. He ran over me,” Kenseth said following the race. “On the restart, he was hanging back and NASCAR has a rule that you can’t hang back, although I’ve never seen it enforced. He was hanging back because I was a little weak on restarts.”

Gordon made a backhanded apology.

“I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him,” Gordon said. “But I didn’t mind moving him out of the way, either.”

“On long runs, we had the best car and I hate to win one like that,” Gordon said. “Matt ran a great race. I got in there hard, he blocked me a couple times and I jumped back in the gas. Matt knew he blocked me on the restart. If I wanted to spin him, I could have spun him then.”

Chicago was in Kenseth’s wheelhouse too. For the second consecutive year, he had led the most laps in the race.

The two had a bit of a history in 2006, beginning at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in March. It was the final lap of the Sharpie 500 and Kenseth pulled the ‘bump and run’ heading into turn four with the checkers in sight.

That move allowed Kenseth to take the lead in the standings.

Following the race, Gordon would spin Kenseth on pit road, which would later result in a penalty.

As Kenseth went to see Gordon to tell his side of the story, a shoving match an and verbal exchanged ensued. But it pretty much ended there. For the remainder of the 2006 season, the two played nice and put the incidents behind them.

With his final start at Chicagoland, Gordon, starting tenth as a result of the cancellation of qualifying, will look to grab his first win of the season at a track that brings back a storied memory.

 

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Commentary

CALINOFF: NBC Stands for NASCAR’S Best Coverage

NBC has a rich history of broadcasting premier sporting events.

Beginning in the late 1930’s they’ve provided coverage – at one time or another – for every major stick and ball sport, as well as the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

It’s safe to say that if you’re an avid sports fan, the colorful Peacock in the upper right-hand corner of your screen gives you a sense of comfort.

In 1999, they began their foray into NASCAR.

Along with FOX, FX and TNT, they obtained the broadcast rights to the two top National Touring Series in a six-year deal. NBC televised the second half of the season and alternated coverage of the Daytona 500 with FOX. In December 2005, NBC announced that it would not renew its agreement with NASCAR.

Grab that remote and fast-forward.

The network made its return to NASCAR at Daytona’s Coke Zero 400 this July with the promise of bringing fans a new experience – something they’ve been craving for the past several years.

They’ve kept their promise and, in my opinion, have over-delivered.

The key ingredient in their secret sauce: Relevance.

Lead analysts @SteveLetarte and @JeffBurton made seamless transitions from their respective roles as crew chief and driver.

While Burton competed in only four races during 2014 – two for Michael Waltrip Racing and twice for Stewart-Haas – the proclaimed “Mayor” of NASCAR is current. He’s raced successfully against today’s crop of veterans and rising stars.

Burton brings the viewers inside the cockpit and offers them a real perspective of what it’s like behind the wheel. The explanations of a driver changing his line or the components of a good restart are a bonus to the broadcast. His delivery is refreshing.

Steve Letarte is Superman.

He left a championship-caliber pit box, discarded his uniform, put on a suit and flew into the booth like a seasoned broadcaster. His strengths come from applicable experience, being a savvy strategist and paying attention to detail.

During last month’s race at Michigan International Speedway, Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 fell off the jack causing damage that flared-out the side skirt. Letarte caught it and the camera zoomed-in to show it. He explained that while it was accidental – it’s illegal to purposely alter the body – and slowed the pit stop, it would not serve as an aerodynamic advantage. Kenseth, who had scored the pole and led the most laps that day, went on to win the race. That’s just one example but, moreover, proof that relevance matters.

With precise play-by-play from @RickAllenracing, the polished reporting on pit road and engaging pre and post-race shows, NBC is building a new model for the way NASCAR broadcasting should be. They also understand that they have a responsibility to entertain – but it isn’t necessary to do so by telling old tales and performing slapstick comedy.

They’ve done an exceptional job at crafting a broadcast team of legitimate players. They have also made clear that the show isn’t about who’s sitting in a booth high above the grandstands. It’s about those on the ground – the real stars of the sport.

The newcomer, regardless of the realm, is always faced with high expectations and the pressures to perform – it’s an inherent element. There are always bigger shoes to fill.

And now, NBC is wearing them.

 

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

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Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: Speeding on Pit Road is the Worst Infraction in NASCAR

Too fast entering. Too fast exiting.

It’s a violation not uncommon across all three NASCAR National Touring Series – and the penalty, depending on the juncture of the race, can ruin your day or cost you a win.

There is absolutely no excuse to speed on pit road. None. It’s a ridiculous violation.

Back in 1991, in the interest of safety, NASCAR implemented the current policy of pit road speed limits. They vary based on the size of the track and the length of pit road. NASCAR uses an electronic scoring system to monitor the speeds of cars on pit road by measuring the time it takes to get from checkpoint to checkpoint. NASCAR allows a 5 MPH cushion.

Since the cars are not equipped with speedometers, drivers rely on their tachometers to gauge their speed, which is established by the pace car on the pace laps.

And there’s more.

In recent years, the cars began to carry somewhat of a safety net. A series of lights on the dashboard that let you know exactly how far you can push the issue. If the lights are green, you’re good. One red light tells you that you’re at the max. Two red lights and you’ve gone over the limit – and that’s when you’re busted. However, if you’ve lit that second red light, you have the opportunity of slowing down and giving back some time as pit road speed is based on averages.

Regardless, the consequences are impactful.

If you violate during a caution period, you’re sent to the rear of the field for the restart. If you’ve exceeded the limit during a green flag stop, NASCAR requires that you come back to pit road for a “pass-through” penalty which mandates that you to drive the length of pit road – at the appropriate speed – and merge back onto the track. On a short track, it usually costs the team about two laps, which is a tall task to overcome — especially late in the race. It’s been done, though. In fact, @KevinHarvick almost pulled it off Saturday night. He was sent to the back twice — once for speeding — and just missed taking home the prize.

So why chance it, right?

Well, everyone looks for an advantage.

The theory is that the quicker you can get to your pit stall to be serviced, the quicker you can beat cars off pit road to gain better track position — and that’s based on the assumption that you’ve had a flawless pit stop. That’s the theory, anyway.

But I see it a little differently.

Those one or two spots you try to gain, can usually be made up on by the time you hit turn two. The double-file restarts have made that possible. Why take a chance passing two cars on pit road at the risk of having to pass 25?

Restarting at the tail of the field not only costs time but also increases the chances of being involved in a wreck. Fighting to get back near the front also puts undue stress on the tires. Nobody wants to be in the back.

During the Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Saturday night, seven speeding penalties were imposed – five for entering and two for exiting. Amongst those were some notables.

@KyleBusch got busted, but there was some confusion as to where the violation occurred. It was first explained that he was speeding in the segment where his pit box was located. That’s impossible. NASCAR later said that it was a different segment. Nevertheless, he sped.

As noted earlier, Kevin Harvick was also nabbed for speeding. He claimed that he was being pushed by @DennyHamlin and that’s what the replay showed. Well, if Harvick was speeding then so was Hamlin – but he didn’t get called out on it. It’s possible that Harvick may have sped in a different segment. But it was a good argument nonetheless.

All drivers react differently when they’re notified that they’ve committed a foul. Some insist that they weren’t speeding while others just take the blame and apologize to their team.

In 2009 at the Brickyard 400, @jpmontoya was laps away from winning the race. He had led 116 of 160 laps, had a five second lead over eventual winner @JimmieJohnson and was penalized for speeding. In fact, it was his second such offense of the race. But Montoya was adamant that he did nothing wrong.

“If they do this to me, I’m going to kill them,” Montoya said on his radio. “There’s no way. I was on the green [dash light] … Thank you, NASCAR, for screwing my day. We had it in the bag, and they screwed us because I was not speeding. I swear on my children and my wife.”

That’s a little extreme. But, I get the frustration.

Speeding on pit road epitomizes risk versus reward and being safer rather than sorrier.

And it comes with a hefty price tag.

Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: What Did Jack Roush Just Say?

Car owners, drivers, crew chiefs and team management people have mastered the art of answering questions without answering questions.

Media folks will ask, let’s say, a car owner the status of a driver – usually during a year when their contract is up for renewal. Those questions are typically posed if performance has been sub-par, or a sponsor announces that they’re going in a different direction. Or even when team co-owners split and proclaim that their teams will continue to run independently in the future. We just learned that’s not exactly how it’s going to play out.

Nevertheless, the media has an obligation to at least try to keep the fans informed, so they have to ask.

But here’s what they get:

“Our intentions are to keep him,” or “We’re working through those details,” or “In a perfect world, nothing would change.” And then it comes. The standard follow-up: “But right now, we’re just focused on winning races and getting into the Chase.” In other words, that portion of the Q&A has concluded – what else ya got?

There are those who truly excel at the game.

Roger Penske is really good. He gives great answers to questions regarding Ryan Blaney’s future in the Sprint Cup Series – but we never get any more information about his plans than we had before we asked. It’s as if he doesn’t know.

But he knows.

Forbes estimates Penske’s net worth to be $1.34 Billion. And when you have a budding superstar in your stable – you’ll figure something out. He knows.

Another great player in this arena is Jack Roush.

Jack is smart. I mean, really smart. He’s quite the wordsmith, and his answers usually include verbs and adjectives that even smart people don’t understand.

Quick story:

I attended a meeting at the Roush Fenway shop years ago with a group of about ten people. Jack was on one of his rants – I don’t remember why – and used the word hubris. Glancing around the table I noticed that some were discreetly looking up the definition on their phones. Hell, I didn’t even know how to spell it let alone what it meant. I’ve since used it twice playing Scrabble.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.13.03 PM

Anyway, here’s a good example of answering without answering.

During a recent segment of Sirius XM’s Dialed In, Jack was asked about his future plans for Buescher – the current points leader in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He told show host, Claire B. Lang that the 22-year-old will be in a Sprint Cup Series car “sooner than later,” but added, “I stop short of saying it’s 2016, but there is a consideration, discussion going on about the prospect of getting him in a car. If not one of my cars, one of the other Ford cars that would be competitive and competing in 2016. He may very well be in one of my Sprint Cup cars. It’s just a matter of sponsorship and business considerations.”

Go read that again.

It may not be 2016, but it would be in a competitive car competing in 2016.

Anyway, it’s getting ready to happen again. Silly Season has begun, and the dominos are starting to fall.

Car owners, drivers and team management will face a barrage of media questions and give precise, eloquent answers that merely raise questions. It’s a vicious cycle.

So Jack, is Chris Buescher is headed to Cup? Will he race a full or partial schedule? Will he be farmed-out to another organization or will he replace someone in yours?

He probably won’t say. But he knows.

They always know.

Should Jack Roush Move Buescher to Cup?

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Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: Hornish Could Miss Another Shift

It’s been a dismal season for @SamHornish.

Prior to his full-time return to the Sprint Cup Series this season with Richard Petty Motorsports, Hornish had competed in just 23 series events over the course of the past four years. Twenty of those came from a partial schedule with his former employer Team Penske, and the other two were a fill-in stint for the injured Denny Hamlin and a one-off deal with Front Row Motorsports.

RPM came into 2015 with a renewed feeling of promise and an extra skip in their step. The famed No. 43 team had made some great strides in 2014 with Aric Almirola, including a slot in the Chase and the return of Smithfield Foods, one of the leaders in the packaged meats category with several brands in their portfolio – including their popular bacon line. Hey, who doesn’t get excited about bacon anyway?

Prior to the Chase last season, Marcos Ambrose announced that he would not be returning to the team, leaving RPM with the task of finding a successor. David Ragan and Hornish were at the top of the list, and it had seemed as though Ragan was leading in the polls. Ultimately, Hornish got the nod and it was well received by his long-standing fan base, originating from his open-wheel days.

This season, Hornish has scored just three top-10s; one in the Daytona 500 and the others in both road courses. He’s currently 25th in the standings and has finished on the lead lap just seven times.

Nine years in the series with a total of 153 starts, he’s led less than 75 laps and finished in the top-10 only 12 times.

After ten races this season, crew chief Drew Blickensderfer was out and Kevin “Bono” Manion was in, but that hasn’t seemed to moved the needle in a positive direction.

As always, you can’t lay all the blame on the guy that holds the wheel. Richard Petty Motorsports had severed ties with their alliance team, Roush Fenway – whose Cup series program has been an anomaly for over two years – and I’m certain that the rest of the Ford camp is taking a backseat to Penske at this point with both cars solidly in the Chase.

Andrew Murstein, the majority partner in RPM brought primary sponsor Medallion Financial to the team. Murstein is also the founder, president and largest shareholder in the publicly held company. So, in essence, the No. 9 team is self-funded.

But, how deep can that hole be dug? Barney Visser self-supports his Furniture Row team, but that company is in a different category – and also yields on-track results.

2016 will probably have a different look and feel for RPM. The King has already moved into his new castle and they’re rumored to be changing manufacturers.

It’s likely that Sam Hornish will be done at RPM. And with the impending demise of Michael Waltrip Racing, I expect David Ragan to be on a very short list of candidates — including Regan Smith.

This racing stuff is a tough deal — especially at this level. Perpetual lackluster performances affect many components of a race team, but it’s usually the drivers that bear the greatest consequence.

 

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Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: Matt Kenseth and My Wedding

So, here’s a good Kenseth story.

From his very first visit to Pocono in 2000 until, well, early last Sunday evening, @MattKenseth dreaded going to the “Tricky Triangle.” Bad enough, we had to go twice. There was just something about the place that plagued him. At the end of every race he’d say, “Sorry guys, I really suck here.” By the time he got to his rental car I would text, “You really do suck here” – just to make light of the day.

I’m not a big fan of the place either. For a spotter, it undoubtedly offers the worst view on the circuit. Turn one is far away, and it’s tough to clear your driver off turn three. So it was a collective set of circumstances that always made for a bad weekend. It’s one of the venues that I don’t miss.

In July of 2005, I got married on the weekend of the Pocono race. It was on a Friday night so that my friends could attend. It was quite the gala at a resort in the Pocono Mountains called The Chateau.

Well, five years later we went our separate ways. We divorced, and I buried her in my backyard. Just kidding. She’s alive and well – and we’re even Facebook friends.

Although Matt was sympathetic, he relished the opportunity to kick up his sarcastic smartass sense of humor – in a manner that I’ve been accustomed to for the past fifteen years.

Prior to each Pocono race beginning in 2011, Kenseth would either text, email or transmit on the radio some sarcastic quip about my wedding or the demise of my marriage.

“Getting married this weekend?”, “Hey, is your wedding Friday or Saturday?”, “How come I didn’t get an invitation to your wedding?”, “Oh, just so you know, I forgot to get you a wedding gift.”  It’s continued to this very day – and I suspect for years to come. With him, it just never ends.

In 2012, for the first time in his career, he led some laps June in the race – I think it was ten or so. When he crossed the line for the sixth lap, he keyed up his mic and said, “Calinoff, I’ve now led more laps here than the amount of years you were married.” Nothing out of the ordinary.

On Saturday night of this year’s June race, he sent me a text:

 

MATT: Hey, I was thinking about you today.

ME: What was the occasion?

MATT: I took a ride on my motorcycle today and rode right past the Chateau.

ME: That’s probably what I should have done!

MATT: LOL! That was funny!

 

Aside from him, his family and team, I don’t think there was anyone happier than I to see him take the checkers on Sunday. It was always such a struggle, so it was cool for him to be able to enjoy the success.

After the race, I sent him a text with congratulations noting my joy and surprise that he won at Pocono – and referenced a milestone.

 

Matt Text

Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: Will Kyle Busch Be the Best Ever?

That subject is perpetually up for debate but, we’ve got a good bit of time to figure it out. I mean, just because a guy comes back from an injury, then charged with having to dig out of a huge points deficit and wins four out of his last five races doesn’t mean that he’s the next _______________. Right?

Go ahead, fill in the blank: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson? How about Cale Yarborough or David Pearson? Can @KyleBusch achieve such greatness? That’s some pretty tough company.

Well, I don’t think so. I doubt we’ll be comparing him to anyone. Rather, I believe the future will be compared to him.

Pretty bold statement, huh? Maybe.

Right now Joe Gibbs Racing is on their game and Toyota is pretty much out-shining Ford and Chevrolet. Add to the mix the continued chemistry between crew chief Adam Stevens and Busch and it appears that things are lined up pretty well. We also know that we’re playing in a cyclical arena – so, nothing lasts forever. But the big picture looks pretty good.

I didn’t just come to a conclusion based on recent weeks results. I’m not solely relying on mathematics either – the fact that he’s won 147 races across NASCAR’s three National Touring Series. Or even that he’s just 30-years-old.

Having spotted for champions and other great drivers in the sport, I share a different perspective than the casual fan or the ultra-passionate ones who understandably have bias towards their favorites. I’m not the expert here but, I’m pretty confident that I know what I’m looking at and Busch has been described to me as “amazing” and “unbelievable” by some of his fellow competitors who are race winners and Champions.

I think that Kyle Busch was the “real deal” long before the phrase was popularized – and part of an elite group who can back it up. You don’t have to like him — I do — but you’ve got to respect the talent. Not everyone was a fan of Bobby Allison, but he wasn’t inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame by winning a popularity vote.

I could get into a whole diatribe on the new Busch family dynamic and it’s influence — but I’ll leave that for someone who’s better at the heart-strings angle than I am.

Our sport is ever-changing. New faces emerge and higher benchmarks are established. That doesn’t mean past accomplishments are ignored or forgotten; it merely states that evolution is alive and well. And that Kyle Busch is at the forefront of the process.

I think that what he does is not just notable, it’s remarkable.