Categories
NASCAR Cup Series Social Media

First Tweets of the NASCAR Famous

When I first learned of Twitter in 2009, my first reaction was, “What a ridiculous name that is.” Then I was told that the exercise of broadcasting your message to the masses was called “tweeting.” I nearly bailed because that sounded like TMI. Nevertheless, I gave it a try, went all-in and actually wound up making a business out of it. 

The use of Twitter in the NASCAR arena spiked at the 2012 Daytona 500 during a red flag, after Juan Montoya ran into a jet dryer causing it to erupt in flames. (There’s a good sarcastic parallel in that sentence about flames and his career… I just don’t have the patience to articulate it.)

Brad Keselowski, from inside his car, tweeted an image of the burning apparatus and it was game-on. 

I watched as Brad’s spotter, Joey Meier, continuously refreshed his Twitter feed. Keselowski’s following began to grow at a rate of around 800 per minute. In just under two hours, he had amassed 100,000 new best friends. Five years later, he’s entertaining 750,000 regularly. His first tweet was kind of dorky, so I chose not to include it. (You’re welcome.

In June of 2012, at Pocono Raceway, NASCAR broke social media ground when they rolled out the “Hashtag NASCAR” program. It was the first time the governing body of a major sport embraced the social platform and it was met with great enthusiasm by fans, competitors, tracks and media. Today, it’s the primary source for realtime race information and breaking news. It has also created a practical opportunity for fans to interact with drivers, crew chiefs, crew members, media and other notable figures in the sport. 

So, I thought it would be fun to look at the first tweets of some high-profile people and entities in the sport. 

Clicking on the tweet will take you to the respective accounts.

 


Although he was late to the Twitter party, Smoke was the first NASCAR driver ever to be re-tweeted by former Vice President and Global Warming enthusiast Al Gore who, by his own account, invented the internet. Without the internet, there would be no Twitter. It’s a big circle. Thanks Al. 👍🏼 🖥

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Yeah, 10:56 is way past Bruton’s bed time. 😔 💤

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This was on an off-week in observance of Easter and April 2nd was Good Friday. Given the time-stamp and the context, it seems as though Clint Bowyer’s spotter was having a Great Friday. 🍺🍸🍷🍾🍹 #Holla

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Gotta love Hamlin. He makes a bold statement out of the gate. Gets right to the point. Doesn’t mince words. Says what he means — means what he says. If only we had hashtags back then….  #spedonpitroad 🚥  #toremyacl 🏀  

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Those five RT’s were Dan Rather, Morley Safer, Steve Kroft, Leslie Stahl and Mike Wallace (No, the other one.) ⏱ 

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This is interesting. The team debuted at Texas in April of 2011 and was originally called Leavine Fenton Racing. It was a partnership with former NASCAR driver Lance Fenton (yeah, neither have I.) 41 days later, following the Coca-Cola 600, Texans Bob and Sharon Leavine assumed Fenton’s share — likely because they never heard of him either. So “Fenton” became “Family” — clearly the best choice for an “F” word.

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Looking out the window, arms folded and foot tapping. 😠

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Carl Edwards. 📵

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HEADLINE: Hamlin Files Lawsuit Against Koch for Plagiarism. Judge Lance Fenton to preside. ⚖

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TRANSLATION: Downloaded the app. Yay! It’s SpeedWeeks and I ain’t got 💩. 

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I’m not really sure what the message is, but how about NASCAR’s very first tweet breaking the 140-character limit rule, huh? …. Well, the PR guy got crushed at the appeal. He was slapped with a three-race suspension, the loss of 25 social media points and encouraged to complete the Road to Twitter Management Program. And the tweet was encumbered.👮🏽  

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Where’s the best place to let people know how to find you on Twitter?…. Twitter!💡

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No clue. But I’ll leave it alone because Kevin could totally kick my ass in a fight. Delana could too. I’m not ruling out Keelan either. 🏋💪🏼 🚑

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Unreal. 🏁

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One of the Best. Days. Ever.

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Categories
Commentary

Penalties and Encumbered Win Continue to Haunt Logano

Struggles continued for Joey Logano in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.

A late-race pit road speeding infraction was compounded by a procedural error — adding fuel while serving the penalty — forfeiting any chance of a solid finish for the Team Penske No. 22.

They would leave the Pocono mountains with a 27th-place finish.

It’s their seventh finish outside the top-20 in the last 11 races, compared to the first ten events of the season where they only saw the south side of 20th two times.

The team has been haunted by their encumbered victory following Richmond and it continues to keep them outside cut-off with just five regular-season races remaining.

The 27-year-old driver sits 69 points behind Matt Kenseth for the final playoff spot, and it appears that a victory may be his only hope.

However, Logano and company have strong history at four of the next five venues in their favor.

They have scored two wins each at Michigan, Bristol and Richmond, and one at Watkins Glen, the host of next weeks contest. Those tracks have yielded only a handful finishes outside the top-10 over the past five seasons.

But success on paper offer no guarantees.

Right now, their focus needs to be on winning and out-scoring the competition, while not beating themselves.

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

Categories
Commentary

(UPDATE) CALINOFF: How My Spotting Career Came to an Abrupt End

Just one year (and nearly 70 lbs.) ago, my spotting career was defined with a 24-hour, 37,000-foot, ten-mile drive experience that has proven to be one of the best days ever. 

Unplanned. Unexpected. Unbelievable.

It was a race – but much more than a typical race. It was my last. I hung-up the headset and capped-off twenty-five years of doing something I loved.

I wrote about it a few days later, because I needed to let emotions subside. Yeah, it was that big for me.

If you didn’t read it the first time, I hope you do now – because it showed me that a simple text from a buddy could cultivate an amazing memory that overflows with humility.

For those who have already seen it, there’s a very cool update at the end.

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“One and done.”

It’s a widely-used phrase that is somewhat idiomatic, so based on its application, it can mean different things to different people.

For college basketball, it applies to student athletes who play for a year and then head to the pros. Other sports use it to refer to a team that makes it to the playoffs but doesn’t advance.

The term is notable in NASCAR as well, and describes drivers who score a win or have a particularly strong day, then fade into oblivion. The phrase might even define a car owner in lower-tier series if he shows up at Daytona with a bag of money and a shiny fleet of top-notch equipment that subsequently goes to auction after Homestead.

They are one and done.

Once Upon a Time …

My spotting career has far exceeded any of my expectations. It began by merely being in the right place at the right time.

NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour star Reggie Ruggiero — for whom I was doing some public relations work — needed a last-minute spotter for a Friday night show in Winchester, N.H. His son did it regularly, but he felt ill right before the 50-lap feature.

I said to Reggie, “Who else can we get?”

“Nobody,” he said. “Go get a headset.”

We won.

Then we won on Saturday night in Agawam, Mass., and then again the following afternoon in Thompson, Conn. Three days later we raced in Riverhead, N.Y. and finished second. I was really disappointed.

I had unleashed my competitive spirit and winning felt great. The more you win, the more you want to win and the greater it feels.

I decided, after a full season of spotting,  to take a leap. There had come a point when spotting was more than just a fun hobby. It grabbed me enough to try and make a career out of it. It was a long shot for sure.

The thing was, there were thousands of Modifieds and Late Models throughout the country, but only 120 spots on the roof for NASCAR’s top three National Touring Series. 

Dale Jr. Didn’t Understand

I don’t believe I got to NASCAR by accident (that’s a spotter joke), but I know that I certainly didn’t get here by myself. None of us do.

I was encouraged to move south by the late Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s Vice President of Corporate Communications. I had gotten to know him through friends, and he took an interest in my career. He was a good man and a friend. His voice of reason is still in my ear.

As my career progressed, the level of competition increased and the races became harder to win.

First, I worked with long-time friends — Brett Bodine and then Ricky Craven. In the 1999 Coca-Cola 600, Ricky had engine issues in qualifying and missed the race.

I don’t remember exactly how this all unfolded, but I wound up wearing a Budweiser uniform and spotting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his Cup debut. It was a low-key, under-the-radar event that was completely ignored by the media. So there was no pressure.

At the first caution, I asked him if everything sounded okay, and if I needed me to be doing anything differently. He said, “See what you can do about that accent because I don’t think I can learn ‘Yankee’ in the next 500 miles.”

We finished 16th with all of the original sheet metal attached.

Crew Chief, Tony Eury, Sr. came up to me after the race and shook my hand.

“You did a good job,” he said. “I have no idea what you were saying, but we didn’t wreck – so good job.”

They already had a guy in place for 2000, so spotting there wasn’t an option. But it was just as well. It was going to be a gig with immeasurably-high expectations. And they talked funny.

Then the Phone Rang

I got the call. It was Crew Chief Robbie Reiser from Roush Fenway. He asked if I’d like to try out for Kenseth. (That’s Matt Kenseth for those of you who may be new or have never heard of Martinsville Speedway.)

Our first race together was March 12, 2000. It was in Atlanta, the fourth race of the season. We started fourth, and the engine exploded on Lap 199. We came out of there with an impressive 40th-place finish. It wasn’t my fault but, I had it in my head that I was one and done.

For the next five or six races, Matt insisted the engine failure was my fault. That’s when I knew that working with him was going to be fun.

Try Not to Get Emotional and Tear-Up

I’ve written a good bunch of stories over the years, and probably half of them have some tie to Kenseth. You can do that when you own the site.

So, I write about Kenseth because his successes have impacted mine. And, on a different level, he’s an important person in my life. He’s a good friend and a confidant.

When my dad passed away in 2004, he fired-up his plane and took me to Long Island to be with my family the same day. That’s just one example.

The people in my world that I could tell anything, and not be judged, can be counted on five fingers. I’m proud to say that Matt (I can’t wait until he reads this) is right in the middle.

(It took me 10 minutes to finish writing that line because I cracked myself up.)

But you get the point: I’m his biggest fan across the board.

Fast Forward

At the end of 2012, Kenseth felt he needed a change left Roush Fenway for Joe Gibbs Racing. I stayed at RFR for the 2013 season to work with the Cup team for Stenhouse Jr. (That’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for those of you who may be new or have never heard of … well, you get the idea.)

We had eight XFINITY wins and two Championships. Every one of those wins was an ass-kicker. Half of them had the right side destroyed because nobody ran the top like him. We won at Iowa, wrecking in our own oil at the start/finish line. That was the first time I was ever in victory lane without a car. Good stuff!

I didn’t return to RFR after 2013, but I still have many great friends there. They’ve been instrumental in helping grow my businesses through sponsor relationships.

After that, I spotted some K&N and late model races. But it got to the point that if someone would ask me to spot, I’d check the weather. If the chance of rain exceeded three percent, I had a “prior commitment.” I had gotten tired of not winning for a couple of years.

With Kenseth, I knew that every time we showed up at a track, we had a legitimate shot to win. It was the same with Ricky in the XFINITY Series.

Okay, here we go…

A week ago Monday at about 7:30 p.m., Kenseth texted me and asked if I “want to go tomorrow.”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Absolutely!” I replied. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Where are we going?”

“Slinger,” he said. “It’s a quarter mile, so please bring your binoculars.”

The eyesight jokes are never-ending.

I had forgotten that the Slinger Speedway Nationals in Wisconsin were that week. It’s one of the most prestigious races in the Midwest, and he had won it a record six times.

Saying yes was a no-brainer for me. I love that track. Plus, I didn’t have much planned. My car was washed, and I was caught up on laundry.

We got on the plane, and I told him about a decision I made on the way to the airport.

“This is the last race that I’m ever going to spot,” I said. “I mean, like forever. No short-track stuff, no top-tier fill-ins. I’m done.”

His eyes were glued to his phone. He never looked up and said, “Oh, OK.”

I could have said, “Hey, the right wing fell off, the windshield is missing, and Jack just put on his WWII flying goggles,” and gotten the same response. I think he was caught up in that Pokémon Go thing.

Once we were airborne, I said it again.

“I’m done spotting after tonight. This is it for me. I want my last race to be with you.”

I thought my friend might be at least a little moved. Maybe he’d say “That would be great. I’d like that.”

Nope.

“Your last race was with me,” Kenseth said. “You stopped spotting in 2002. I just kept you around and added more mirrors.”

When it comes to jabs and sarcastic insults, there’s nobody better — or quicker.

And, just so you know, he’s one of the most annoying people I have ever met. And I’m not easily annoyed.

In the car ride from the airport to the track I had to take a business call — it was kind of important. Every time I spoke he’d lower his voice three octaves, repeat what I was saying and laugh. It’s a five-mile trip, and I’m riding with an echo. Welcome to 8th grade.

Fast story: We’re at Dover. He’s in the middle of three and four. I’m going to give him the lap count as soon as he exits. He keys the mic and says, “What lap are we on?” I said, “I was just about to tell you. It’s like you read my mind.” He comes back with, “I did. It was like reading a children’s book.” Like I said, better and quicker. There are no less than 100 stories I could tell you. 

In total, I have been part of three Championships — two with Ricky — two Daytona 500s, an All-Star Race and 31 wins in two series with Matt. I figured there was nothing else for me to accomplish, and the likelihood of another chance to spot for him was probably at zero.

So, today would be the day. My final show. The last hurrah. A three-hour farewell tour.

Who Wrote the Script?

Jones (That’s Eric, except with a “k”) raced us pretty hard for the last 15 laps. He’s a great driver with an amazing future, but I think his depth perception and peripheral vision might have been temporarily impaired about eight times. Once, he started his turn four exit on the backstretch. That’s what it looked like to me. You can watch Video No. 2 and make an official ruling.

Well, the wind-up of the whole deal is that we won. And we did it in pretty exciting fashion — on the last lap following a subtle “pardon me.”

Nevertheless, it was a great way to go out, and I felt like it put an exclamation point on my spotting career. I couldn’t have written it any better. The craziest part was the timing. Kenseth sent me a casual text, and 24 hours later I was wearing a headset.

Same Old, Same Old

It was so much fun. I mean really, so much fun. Just like old times. I felt like we established a rhythm right away. The phrase “U got it!” was tossed around throughout the race. The origin of that is a story in itself. If you see me, ask me, I’ll tell you.

He criticized my eyesight and did the echo thing again. I jabbed him about his restarts and called him “Joey” a few times. It was an honest mistake.

In victory lane, he said the same thing he’s said every time we won. “Are you getting a tattoo?” If you aren’t familiar with the tradition, I got a commemorative tattoo when we won the Championship, got one for each Daytona 500 and a few more. You can Google “Calinoff tattoo” and you’ll see some stories and images.

What Does it All Mean?

If I had to rank the milestones, here’s the list:

  1. Championship 2003: That’s the biggest prize. It’s what you strive to achieve. It pays a nice bonus.
  2. Daytona 500s in 2009 and 2012: It’s the freakin’ Daytona 500. And jet-dryers burst into flames.
  3. Slinger Nationals 2016.
  4. Everything else.

You see, last week wasn’t just about a race. And it wasn’t just about a win.

It was about making a circle — starting at Point A and ending at Point A. Grassroots beginning, grassroots ending. I had my first big win with Matt and my last big win with Matt.

It was about the circumstances and how a random text put the wax on my spotting career. I don’t believe in coincidences. This is the way it was supposed to be.

I traveled the country 38 weekends for twenty years. I could write this story 50 different ways and still be unable to express the emotion and satisfaction that I experienced on one Tuesday night in Slinger, WI. Moments like that are a premium. Not everyone has the opportunity to bring to a close something they love and do it on their terms.

I am so blessed to have had such a fulfilling career and to do it with great people. The memories I have feel just as good today as they did when they happened.

And then I thought: I could have just as easily been one and done.

 

ABOUT THE VIDEOS:

No. 1Of course.

No. 2These are the final ten laps with Erik Eric Jones at Slinger. There are a couple of cautions in there, and the last restart is a Green-White-Checker. Matt is in the No. 8, and Eric is in the No. 20.  

No. 3As far as videos go, it’s P1 on my list. It has been viewed over 27,000 times, and 26,000 of them are mine. You’ll recognize the content, but not the commentary. Order the Miso Soup – it’s fabulous!  

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it. NASCAR has the best fans in all of professional sports – and I appreciate all of you.

 

Video No.1 

Yes, it’s real.


Video No.2

Video No. 3   (The audio is low. You’ll need to raise the volume)

   

UPDATE

And Then There was This

Roughly ten days after I first published this story, my friendly FedEx guy knocked on my door. He had a three-foot box next to him on the porch. 

The sender was from Wisconsin — which excited me because I was running low on cheese. I prayed for Sharp Cheddar. But it wasn’t to be.

The contents were packed with more bubble-wrap than Denny Hamlin should be wearing when he plays basketball. 

It was the trophy. Probably one of the most coveted in all of midwest Late Model racing. It’s a cool piece. 

Then it hit me. 

We were on the plane, about halfway home. Kenseth starts looking around and we had this exchange:

MATT: “Where did you put the trophy?”

ME: “I didn’t touch the trophy.”

MATT: “I specifically asked you not to forget the trophy.”

ME: “You’re specifically delusional because I never heard you mention the word ‘trophy’.”

MATT: “Yep. Can’t see, can’t hear. Great spotter.”

Then he shook his head and mumbled something under his breath.

ME: “Did you really say it?”

MATT: “Absolutely not.”

ME: “Nice. You made me feel terrible.”

His face lit up.

MATT: “Really!?”

ME: “Absolutely not.”

 

I called him when I got it. 

He said it was purposely left it behind so that the track could have his name added.

I told him that his touching gesture will make it even more valuable — on eBay.

 

 

 

I wrote this story is in memory of my dad, who encouraged me to do what I love, and love what I do. It’s worked out pretty well.

Lenny Calinoff
Len Calinoff

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TONIGHT

 

 

 

Email Mike at mike@mikecalinoff.com

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Categories
XFINITY

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Boyd Gaming 300

Joey Logano survived a couple of late-race restarts and took his Team Penske Ford to Victory Lane  — this time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Logano’s stuck to his lane choice plan, that found momentum on the top would make the difference in the end.

 

Jack is Back on Track

Roush Fenway continues to show strength in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as both Ryan Reed and Darrell Wallace Jr. grabbed top-10 finishes.

The success is nearly five years in the making. The organization has struggled in the series since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won back-to-back titles in 2011-12.

Since then, crew chief and management changes have yielded marginal results.

2017 seems to be off to a good start and they’ll look to carry the momentum to Phoenix next week, a historically strong venue for the team.

Nice to see them as part of the conversation.

 

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

When NASCAR announced limiting Cup drivers with five-plus years of full-time experience in the two lower-tier National Touring Series events, it seemed like a step in the right direction.

But everything usually looks good on paper.

In reality, ten races is one-third of the season. Not every Cup driver will be in the same races, so it’s possible (not necessarily probable) that the series champion may still not win a race. But let’s hope for the best.

With budding talent like William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones in the mix, it would be nice to see some of those faces in Victory Lane.

 

Yellow Flags Make for Great Racing

Fans used to throw their hands in the air when a race was interrupted by a caution. Teams felt the same way.

Now, it’s usually just the leader that who experiences disappointment.

For the rest of the teams it’s an opportunity to make a strategy decision or tighten up a deficit. Track position is as valuable as a strong motor.

Fans are happy too. Well, most of them.

When NASCAR implemented the double-file restart in 2009, it changed the whole game.

While it’s more significant in the later stages of the race, the four-wide-hold-your-breath chaos getting into turn one has been one of NASCAR’s best procedural decisions.

Throw in a Green-White-Checker and life is good.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Hamlin Seeks While Teammates Hide in Talladega

Joe Gibbs gave Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards a theoretical afternoon off, but Denny Hamlin worked a little more than three hours of overtime and secured himself a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Round of 8.

Hamlin overcame an early pit road penalty and beat Kurt Busch to the line to garner the final transfer spot. The points tally forced a tie with Austin Dillon, but Hamlin got the nod for achieving the highest finishing position in the Round of 12.

Hamlin’s teammates had a different agenda, though.

On the final pace lap, the JGR trio dropped to the back of the field and rode together for a majority of the race. It was a planned strategy to insulate themselves from a potential Talladega “Big One” – and that plan came together well.

Hamlin knew he was going to be on his own, in a race where teammates can typically serve as a strong asset, but understood that self-preservation served the greater good of the organization.

“Yeah, I knew they were (going to ride in the back), but they had to do what they had to do to get in,” he said. “You can’t sacrifice those three cars to try to get the last one in. You’ve got to know you’ve got in your hand three aces. You can’t try to get the fourth and risk it, so I knew I was going to be out there alone, but I found the guys that I worked with and stuck with them, and it all worked out.”

So how hard was it for a race car driver not to race?

Matt Kenseth was the highest secured JGR driver in the standings but knew the strategy had Homestead written all over it.

“It goes against everything you ever want to do as a race car driver,” he said. “You want to go try to win races, so I think it’s just kind of an unintended consequence of the way – being the cutoff race and the way the Chase works. You can’t afford to go up there and get wrecked and not have a chance to race for a championship, so it was just kind of the cards we were dealt and we had to play them. I don’t think any of us had any fun and none of us enjoyed, but it was just what we had to do to make sure we got to Martinsville and trying to race four more weeks and hopefully have a shot at the four of us trying to race for a championship.”

The next three races will set the stage for the season finale, but Talladega may just serve as a key for a Joe Gibbs Racing team to leave Miami a Champion.

Email Mike at mike@mikecalinoff.com

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

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

RAPID REACTION: Misery to Majesty

What’s in a Name?

Kevin Harvick didn’t get his moniker by accident. “The Closer” donned his cape in the late stages of the race to get the job done. After a start less-than-stellar start to the Chase in Chicagoland, the “Happy” one shed misery to majesty and locked himself into Round Two. Is this the start of a Championship run? Too early to tell. It was the little things like bad pit stops and penalties that bit the No. 4 team during the season. But you can never count out a champion when it’s time to crown one.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Ask anyone in the garage and they’ll tell you that Ryan Newman is the toughest guy to pass. He’ll race you hard and make you work for the track position, even if he’s down a lap. Today, Kenseth was the tough one to pass — but for a different reason.

Today’s runner-up is arguably the best defensive in the series. When he wants to keep a spot, he’ll likely keep it. It’s called “stealing the line.” Kenseth can gauge his follower’s weak points on the track and make him drive there. Such was the case with Martin Truex, Jr. The ability to coax another driver into a space he can’t go is an art form. While Truex ultimately got the spot, he used up a lot of rubber doing it.

Fear of Commitment

With the caliber of drivers in the Chase, it’s going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. You have to be nearly mistake-free if you want to wear that crown in Homestead.

Carl Edwards’ commitment line penalty sent him to the rear of the field and caused him to restart his day. While ultimately finishing 6th, who knows what might have been if Cousin Carl didn’t get nabbed.

Thanks for Showing Up Again

Not really Chase-related, but what’s up with Kasey Kahne? Four consecutive top-ten finishes for the No. 5 team. They’re probably the hottest team in the series that nobody talks about. But, as the cliche goes, better late than never — especially when young William Byron is going to need someplace to eventually sit.

Bowman the Showman

Alex Bowman is regularly part of the conversation. Filling in for Dale Jr and sharing the duties with Jeff Gordon raised the bar nearly beyond reach. But Bowman can touch it standing on his tippy-toes.

Categories
Commentary

RAPID REACTION: Auto Club Speedway

Once upon a time, Auto Club Speedway was on the “snoozer” list of NASCAR races.

It used to be all about track position and clean air. Not anymore.

Low downforce, low grip and big momentum told the story today. Teams lobbied for a package that would make the drivers drive the cars. Today was another showcase that it’s working.

Risk vs. Reward

Beginning with the 2015 season, NASCAR no longer mandated minimum front left and right tire pressures. While Goodyear still offers their recommendations, the teams are free to make their own determinations — and it’s usually track-specific

Low pressures allow more of the tire to adhere to the track and enhance the grip, but lessens the durability — that’s the price. The Busch brothers, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne were amongst those paid it today.

Kenseth’s Kalamities Kontine

It’s been rough start to the 2016 season for the 2003 Champion.

The “Silent Assassin” came up two corners short of winning the Daytona 500 and the stars haven’t aligned since. Historically, Auto Club Speedway has been good to Kenseth, who started 20th and showed up third at the halfway mark.

But an unscheduled pit stop and two pit road penalties squashed any chance of making today a rebound race with a 19th place finish. He’s probably looking forward to a week off before he heads to Martinsville where…. never mind.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Denny Hamlin kicked off 2016 as the Daytona 500 Champion, followed by two mediocre races and a third-place finish last week in Phoenix. Radio issues, a pit road penalty and a lot of beating and banging could have easily derailed his efforts, but they persevered to grab another top-three. And he didn’t tear an ACL.

Chasing the Leaders

Rookie of the Year contender, Chase Elliott, scored his third top-10 of the season. Surprising? Not really. At 20 years-old Elliott continues to prove that he belongs where he is. Today, making some bold moves, he hung around the top-10 and finished 6th.

There aren’t many rookies who graduate to NASCAR’s premier series, face the challenge of keeping up with good race craft and are expected to win. But Elliott is. And he will.

You Think Superman was Fast?

In the end, Jimmie Johnson wound up wearing the cape. But those who were faster than a speeding bullet were the over-the-wall gang for Martin Truex and the Furniture Row team. Sub-eleven-second stops turned heads on pit road and continually gained the team spots.

The secret sauce? Joe Gibbs Racing. The No. 78 team is taking advantage of their alliance and dipped into the pit crew pool to strengthen their performances. If not for the skirmish with Logano, Truex was off to a very solid day. His finishing positions continue to decline, but Cole Pearn and company likely have something up their sleeves.

The Best of the Rest

Ricky Stenhouse Jr nipped Elliott at the line for his fourth career top-five and his program continues to improve. A.J. Allmendinger finished 8th for a much-needed top-10. Brian Scott turned a 21st place starting position to a 12th place finish and Landon Cassill drove from Rancho Cucamonga (34th) to come home 16th.

 

 

Categories
Commentary

CALINOFF: I’m Not Abandoning NASCAR

I know the title doesn’t match the photo. That was actually by design – but stick around and you’ll see where it comes into play.

One of my favorite idioms is “Letting the Tail Wag the Dog.” (There’s the connection to the picture — that’s Leo)

To paraphrase, it means allowing something small to have a significant influence on something much bigger. I’ve been guilty of it for most of my business career. I take a little idea, and I let it consume me until I can gain control and put it back into the correct perspective. That’s when I do the wagging.

If you know me, you’ve figured out that I’m rarely at a loss for things to do. I’m never bored – always on the move. I keep the plates spinning and the balls in the air. Spare me the balls in the air jokes. I wrote most of them anyway.

When we started PopularSpeed.com three years ago, it was quite an undertaking – finding the right name was a project in itself. Then we had to figure out who we wanted to be and what we would stand for. And then there was the design and finding writers and getting photographers. (We have Nigel Kinrade and his group – it doesn’t get better than that. No charge for the plug, Nigel.) And then we had to make sure we deliver engaging content and maintain our momentum.

The wind-up? It’s become bigger and better than I had ever imagined. We didn’t get to this point by accident. We’re here because of the people. Everyone who has his or her fingerprints on this site makes a difference. And I’m grateful to have each and every one of them.

After I launched the site, I made a promise to myself – and everyone around me – that this will be the extent of my website business. I’ll just stick with this.

I lied. It was totally unintentional.

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A few months ago I was looking for information about Formula One. I don’t even remember why. But, aside from what you can get from the series page, there weren’t any independent sites, and nothing much to speak of for IndyCar either.

When I say “independent” I mean sites dedicated to those premier worldwide disciplines of motorsports. There are plenty of, what I call, “tab sites” which are all things to all people. Nothing wrong with that – but I’m not inclined to sift through NASCAR  INDYCAR  F1  NHRA  SCCA  RALLY  SPORTS CAR  MOTOGP  POGO STICK and UNICYCLE tabs to find the information I’m looking for.

So today, I’m pleased to introduce PopularOpenWheel.com.

We’re only covering IndyCar and Formula One – as well as their support series, IndyLights and GP2, respectively. There’s also something called “The Road to Indy” which serves as a feeder system. I know, I’m a little confused myself.

Aside from the lack of information, I figured two things:

  1. a) IndyCar has made some changes in the off-season to management and the rules package. The racing is supposedly going to be as good as it used to be. I know this because someone told me. I’m confident there will be a heightened interest. So, that was appealing.
  1. b) Gene Haas is fielding a U.S.-owned Formula One team for the first time. I figured that not only will there be more interest by Americans, but from NASCAR fans as well. Stewart-Haas has four marquee drivers with lots of fans, and you know how that goes — we all support each other. So I thought that was attractive. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong – but I love risks. I love starting new things. It motivates me to have a kick-ass day. I do it for sport.

Many of you may ask, “Calinoff, what do you know about IndyCar or Formula One?” It’s a valid question. I know nothing about this stuff. That’s the truth. But I know Roger Penske. And Chip Ganassi. And Dario Franchitti. And Nelson Piquet, Jr. – and those people know people who also know people.

But really, I found the magic bullet.

Lewis Franck, who has covered motorsports for over 30 years, including 22 years at Reuters news service, is the guy. I don’t need to know anybody – just Lewis. Because he, too, knows Roger Penske. And Chip Ganassi. And Mario Andretti. And everyone else in that world. I know nothing. Lewis knows everything. So, he’s the Executive Editor and will be hands-on. He has assembled a great staff of editors and writers.

Lewis is funny. (Actually, he’s quite comical) But funny, because he calls and sends me emails about all these things he’s doing and relationships he’s leveraging. To that, I respond, “Great job, Lewis,” and “That awesome, Lewis” and “How did you possibly pull that off, Lewis?”

I have absolutely no clue what he’s talking about. But it must be really good because he’s excited. And that makes me excited.

That brings us to the title of this story.

NASCAR is my first love. It always will be. It’s given me a career and a level of success far beyond my wildest dreams. My life is great as a result of NASCAR. I have been blessed with the opportunities that have come my way over the years. And while I’m not spotting regularly, much of my business is in the NASCAR arena. I’m not going anywhere.

That’s the deal. I invite you to check it out. If you like what you see, tell someone. If you don’t like what you see, tell everyone – because people are curious by nature. If you tell them not to do something, they tend to want to know why. Tell a kid not to touch a hot stove or wet paint.

So, this is it. I’m done with the website business. I have one that’s great and another that’s destined to be great. I’m officially satisfied.

Wait. I’m lying again.

I have another site launching on May 26th. There’s nothing like it. Not even on tabs. Get excited. I mean, really excited.

Do you want a hint? Too bad.

The plates are spinning, and the balls are in the air.

I gotta go. I have things to do. Hold my calls.

 

Email Mike at mike@mikecalinoff.com

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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

EMAIL MIKE AT mike.calinoff@icloud.com
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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.