Archive | March 10, 2012

Nascar Viva La Las Vegas ~ Cutting Loose!

I’m just a bit excited for my sport this weekend. You see, I am an avid Nascar Fan. I didn’t blog about Nascar but once last season I believe and that is only because I was still a blogging newbie.


Texas Motor Speedway


 My feet are both wet to blogging now, maybe to my knees. And I certainly have much I could talk about regarding the stock car racing sport of Nascar. Including the drivers, their crew chiefs, teams, team owners, and even the commentators and fans. I am an all around Nascar Fan and have been since growing up with an older brother who loved Nascar and raced his own stock car in the mid to late 60’s. My big brother raced a Goat. A what? I can hear non race/muscle car fans asking with some astonishment. It’s actually a common nick name for a Pontiac GTO. This was my brothers stock racing car that he ran at the Portland International Speedway in Portland Oregon. This and watching the Nascar races on TV was my introduction to a life long love affair with cars and speed.

For those maybe not familiar with NAScar and stock car racing you should know first off that the cars raced have a body stylethat is very close to the cars we are familiar with. Chevy, Fords, Toyota, Dodge. The origins of Nascar racing go back to the days of bootleggers and the prohibition. The bootleggers needed a way to get their illegal booze from the land which held their stills in the south to distributors up north who had Speakeasy’s where the drink was sold and served in underground, unadvertised venues. If you were in the need of a good wine or sherry to serve your guests, or a rich brandy for giving when fighting a anything from the sniffles to vapors, then you hoped then that somewhere amongst your networking & community you have found a contact. Maybe even the local pharmacist would know how to make arrangements for an alcohol remedy.

To see the cars on the tracks you would be familiar with the look with the exception of some tweaking done for areo- dynamics, speed, and safety. Depending on the track and the set up on the cars for each, the drivers can reach speeds of 200 mph on an oval track. The oval tracks vary from .66 of a mile to 2.5 miles, and the two road races (per season) that these drivers and their teams try to navigate the fastest they can. And to make it to the green checkered flag at the end of the particular number of laps per track and race.

The speeds are and have proven to be very dangerous as the history of Nascar played out through today. There are very few sports that are played on a competitive level without some threats of injury or even the loss of life. Nascar is no different. And like all professional sports when a flaw in the rules, equipment, and venues are determined the sport makes changes to make sure that they have done their best to prevent a repeat. Nascar is no different.

Through the years Nascar racing has gone from racing on a sandy beach (Daytona, in the very beginning of the creation of Nascar Racing)) to brand new tracks whose inception came from the desire to be part of the Nascar circuit and get in on the action more locally. Tracks from the far north to the west coast now sit on the Nascar Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Truck circuits.

Also through the years the knowledge for greater safety issues were usually born out of accidents on the tracks. And very sadly & tragically some of those accidents include loss of life.  The Nascar family suffers when we lose a member of our family in any situation. Yet watching a driver on the track running at speeds we as street divers [NOT RACERS] cannot comprehend gets loose and runs into a wall it is a sinking feeling every time. I don’t care how long you are a fan, being part of the huge Nascar family is like a new experience each time. You hold your breath, your shoulder’s hike to your ears, and your stomach rolls like a pitching tide.  The loss of life in this kind of situation may make you question; “What are any of us doing here?” Until you hear the rumble of the engines at tremble waiting to accelerate.

My favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Sr. who I’ve (since the mid 70’s) rooted for & cheered on with millions of  other Nascar family & his own son, Dale Jr. crashed, suffered, & died from a basilar skull fracture in a last-lap crash at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2001.( He has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.)


It was an awful scene to witness and I was grateful I was doing it from the distance of my Lazy Boy in Oregon across the USA from Florida. When it happened nothing seemed amiss. It looked like a typical crash we’d seen a thousand times that drivers would pull the window safety net down and pull themselves out the driver’s door window. In fact the commentators went on talking about the winner Michael Waltrip who for him was a very emotional win. A win he had not been able to hash mark, but a bittersweet win all the same in the end. In a very sad irony Michael & Dale Sr were being best friends Michael was having a difficult time celebratingt his win, instead he was booking it back down the track to where black the # 3  Chevy sat crumpled. Worrying about his best buddy.  Even Michael has stated since that day that he did not let it enter his mind that our hero Dale Sr, The “Intimidator” was anything but injured. Mikey, as he is affectionately called was not allowed near Dale Sr’s car. He knew. He was broken. This win of the Daytona 500, the Superbowl if you will of Nascar that is at the top of every Nascar driver’s list was tarnished by Dale Sr’s death.

There were huge safety improvements Nascar implemented ASAP and continued in the following years making changes that allow these drivers, who it should be known are family men first, to race in safer environments.

One of the most significant improvements and Nascar mandates come directly from  Dale Sr’s death is what is called The Hans Device. This is a head and neck restraint which straps the drivers upper body to his custom seat. (The seats are also a very important part of the safety features)

The Hans Device:

The Hans ]Head Restraint] Device

Safety & Dale Sr’s death will respectfully always be entertained. The fact that many improvements in the tracks safety by improving the safety barriers and the cars and drivers safety improvements have been made pretty much in Dale Sr’s name have saved driver’s lives over and over. In the 10 years since Dale Dr’s tragic death which shocks us all, even now seeing the footage is hard to comprehend that he did not walk away.

Not one driver has lost his life due to a Nascar car or track since 2001 because of the safety improvements made by Nascar..

The racing is as exciting this season as it’s ever been. Last weeks race at Phoenix had me screaming at my (now fave) driver Kevin ” Happy Harvick. Number #29, who is the driver who was asked to step up into Dale Sr’s place on Richard Childress’ Racing team. Happy Harvick had run a stellar race, having me on the seat of my pants waiting for him to close near the final laps of the race.

Kevin "Happy" Harvick

It was so close…..and then …. Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel on the last lap before the white flag. Bummer!  Then he fell behind all of a sudden by 3 seconds. Three seconds! Happy Harvick ran the most exciting & fun race at Phoenix today and he had me sitting on the edge of my seat for the final 50 laps.

Tony Stuart #14 had a real problem with the new Electronic Engine Management System that is part of the fuel system. When he turned his engine off trying to save gas to make it to the finish he could not get his car restarted.

I happen to love it when fuel comes into play rowards the end of a race. Is there enough to makeit? Did the crew chief and engineers calculate correctly?

I’m feeling that the extreme racing that already we’re seeing is nothing less than awesome and something to write home about. This early on that Sprint Cup Series is entertaining us with this season with stellar racing is simply all I need to be ready with a front seat position“

Denny Hamlin #11 held on running and came in first, finally taking the green checkered flag.

There were a lot of great drivers who finished in the  top ten and as this just the second race of the season I’m thinking this could be one of Nascar Sprint Cup Series best years ever.

And Denny? Nice Burn-out Dude!

Now let’s drop the green flag, and get racing Viva La Vegas Style Boys and Girls!