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SportsRantz NASCAR Fan Council

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An off week!!?!? Really….yes, the Sprint Cup Drivers are off on vacations, dirt tracking racing, nationwide racing and relaxation.  Since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series just had to have the weekend off, I decided to do the opposite and look to the fans for some much needed answers on some questions that have arisen since writing my Mid-Season Review. I looked to twitter to recruit some great NASCAR Fans and picked their brain. With that being said; Lets unveil my NASCAR Fan Council.

Andrew, PA

Twitter Account: @montymorris

Matt, TN

Twitter Account: @Matt_Kacar

Jason, Idaho

Twitter Account: @StrockerAceKid

Katie, VA

Twitter Account: @Katie_2835

With the council being introduced; let’s get to the Questions and Answers!

1.      What has been the highlight to the NASCAR season?

Andrew: I will have to go with Darlington.  Smith winning for the second time in his career, (He won Talladega, no matter what the ‘official’ results say!) The Montoya/Newman fight on Friday started a rumor filled weekend and Harvick/Kyle Busch dust up capped the race.  There was some passing and towards the end it looked like a Bristol race, not a race at The Lady in Black.  The race showed that most of the cars in the field can win if the proper circumstances work out for a team, as Smith held off Edwards for the win.  Great race.

Matt:  All the different cup winners this year have been a highlight for me. Shows that there seems to be lots of parity in NASCAR and the chase could be very competitive. As far as favorite race i would go with the Daytona 500 and Trevor Bayne winning it. It was such a shock to see him win it but great to see the Wood Brothers back in victory lane.

Jason:  going to the All-Star race this past May, but found the truck race was much better..All-star was a little boring

Katie: My favorite race was Martinsville because I was there. Tons of action and all the huge wrecks happened right in front of me. I also like how interactive the drivers are this year it seems like they’re connecting with fans more than last year.

 2.      Do you think that the new points system has improved performance/leveled the playing field?

Andrew: I was not a fan of the new system when it was announced but it is growing on me.  The spread between first and fifth is 20 pts making a change in the top 5 almost every week since the start of the season.  It is harder to overcome large deficits in one week, and makes finishing in the top ten every week VERY important. Consistency is still the key and wins have added weight like NASCAR wanted.

Matt:  In regards to the new points system I don’t think we will know what effect it has had till the Chase comes around. One thing’s for sure it has made bad finishes hurt you a lot more than under the old points system.

Jason: I love the new points system! This is how I would have done it in the first place…way easier for everyone to track and follow.

Katie: I think it’s put an emphasis on winning and consistency. So that’s always a good thing. Drivers are more determined. But then it’s also a bad thing because then you have guys intentionally wrecking people just for a point or two or the win. But that parts always there. Just more present now.

 3.      If you could bring one race or track back which would it be and why?

Andrew: North Wilksboro.  I loved watching that short track beat-em-up, and think NASCAR did a dis-service to its base taking that race away from the fans of the south east.  Take that snooze fest Michigan race and give one to North Wilksboro, and one to Rockingham!!

Matt:  I would bring Rockingham back to the Sprint Cup schedule. That track is unlike all the cookie cutter tracks we have now and it had some of the best racing too. Still sad that it’s not on the cup schedule. 

Jason: Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, the Midwest needs more NASCAR and its closer to me.

Katie: I would put Rockingham or Virginia International Raceway in. I never saw any racing at the Rock but heard it was awesome. I would put VIR in because I think we need more road racing in the series. It would really help show case champions.

 4.      What are your thoughts on the crew chief swaps?

Andrew: I don’t think it matters for a good driver who his crew chief is.  If he knows how to communicate what his car is doing, a crew chief that has made his way up through an organization should be able to put a driver in a position to win.  I think organizations use the crew chief as a scape goat when a driver does not perform up to par.  Prime example is Jr.  He has had 3 crew chiefs since he has been at Hendricks Motorsports and only one win on a fuel mileage gamble, while Martin, Gordon, and Johnson all have multiple wins with the same equipment. Now is that a crew chief problem or a Driver problem…….you tell me.

Matt: I think the crew chief swaps were probably needed to try and jumps start the Biffle and Montoya teams to try and make the chase. Time will tell if the swaps were a good idea. 

Jason: I can understand the crew chief swaps, drivers no clicking with them or the team just needs a fresher perspective…good for getting the best out of a chief, and if u don’t perform u can be replaced

Katie: It’s probably stressful for the teams because they have to get readjusted to how every crew chief works because they’re all different. The teams seem to be adjusting well. I just think crew chief/crew changes should be saws till the off season so it’s not too stressful on teams.

 5.      Do you think NASCAR should look at their TV Coverage and change something?

Andrew: The TV is what it is.  NASCAR and the fans are at the mercy of whatever director is running the show for the respective networks. Some of them are good, and some of them are downright horrible.  I think there is a fine line of trying to please the old school race fan and trying to bring in new younger fans.  The network that has done the best with this is ESPN.  Their long standing history with the sport helps their broadcasts and the capture most of the racing action. The broadcasters all leave a lot to be desired.  ESPN has made a great choice with Alan Bestwick going back in the booth, and I think Mike Joy runs a close second on the lap by lap announcing.  DW needs to retire; McReynolds needs to learn how to speak English, somewhere other than a broadcast booth! The only people I can stomach on-air at FOX are Joy and the pit reporting crew, who seem to have a good relationship with the crews and don’t seem to be bothering them when interviewing them during the race.  Wally Dallenbach is serviceable and not too bad, as is Kyle Petty for TNT.  TNT also has the limited commercial Coke 400, but only uses that feature for one race.  The side-by-side is a must for the future of the sport and broadcasters should look seriously at that option down the road.  ESPN, I will reserve for the end of the year before I pass judgment.

Matt: I think it should be mandatory to have side by side commercials for every race. Also they should not allow anyone that owns a car in any NASCAR series to be part of the race broadcasts. Its such a conflict of interest.

Jason: first off I hate TNT, they show way too many commercials, the split screen idea for the breaks is awesome, wished all networks would do the split screen, as a consumer I am more inclined to watch the ads on a split screen rather than taking a snack/bathroom break.

Katie: Yes, definitely. I don’t like TNT’s coverage. I think that they get off topic and dwell on some topics for too long. They’re camera men aren’t that good at keeping up either. ESPN is the best in my opinion. Not too much of glaring problems from them. Good broadcasters and camera men. Fox in my middle one because they’re broadcasting is good and I always know what’s going on.

 6.      Who do you think will win the championship this year?

Andrew: Tough question.  Hard not to pick the 48 winning again, as so far they have not shown too much in the way of slowing down. Even with them lurking I will go with the 29 team, who have shown quiet consistency, winning 3 times and 10 top tens.  I think it is Harvick’s year.  (But I am still hoping for the 24 to get his 5th!!!!!)

Matt: Denny Hamlin?

Jason: Carl Edwards will win, he has been very consistent during the last races of the past years….Jimmie is going down

Katie: Carl Edwards looks pretty consistent to me and that’s what it takes to win. Although this wild card thing could shake things up…

The council has spoken! Many want to see the Rock back or think Edwards is going to win this year? Do you agree, disagree, and want to add your input? Be sure to leave your comments and e-mail me if you want to join the council!

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NASCAR

Kyle Busch Wins Second NASCAR Cup Title

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Kyle Busch

Kylke Busch, who is arguably the most polarizing driver in NASCAR, won his second Cup title on Sunday and took the opportunity to celebrate the victory with fans, a big change from his first win back in 2015 when Busch ruined the massive championship banner by doing smoke-filled burnouts.

“It messed up the flag and everything, and I wanted to get a good shot with the flag everywhere, make sure everybody could get a good shot of the flag because we’re the 2019 champions,” Busch said (h/t ESPN/Associated Press). “There are always your doubters. There are always your haters. You know what? This one’s for ‘Rowdy Nation’ because you guys are the best. Thank you so much.”

Busch won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to snap a 21-race losing streak, doing so as teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were slowed by pit-road issues.

Busch joined seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson as the only active drivers with multiple titles.

“You’ve got to be perfect. One mistake probably cost us the championship,” Truex said. “I’ve never had that happen. I don’t even know what to say. It doesn’t drive good with the left front on the right front, though, I can tell you that. It’s very tight.”

“I feel like I did all I could. I don’t feel I could have done a better job. I didn’t leave anything out there,” Hamlin said. “I was thinking we got a chance, and it just didn’t work out. We got a little aggressive there, and it cost us.”

“Everybody always says you never give up. We’re no different. We just do what we can do each and every week,” Busch said. “Sometimes we may not be the best. Sometimes we may not have the right track position. We had a really good car, and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s so special about Homestead Miami Speedway is the ability to put on a show.

“I felt like we did that there racing those guys. I know it kind of dulled out toward the end. It was exciting enough from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”

_

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NASCAR

Tony Stewart Punches Heckler During Race Track Fight

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Tony Stewart

NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, got into a fight with a heckler at a Jackson, Minnesota racetrack on Friday night, which saw the 48-year old driver punch a heckler in the face.

Stewart, who was the center of attention as that Jackson Motorplex put on “Tony Stewart Night”, was driving in a spring car race when his engine apparently blew out after only one lap.

Following the race, Stewart was signing autographs for fans when a heckler approached Stewart and, according to eye witnesses, began cussing Stewart out for “quitting” only one lap into the race.

Stewart responded to the colorful tirade, which included calling Stewart a “piece of sh#t”, but saying that; “I blew out my engine, you f#cking asshole. Do you want to pay for it?”

The exchange continued and escalated further when Stewart hauled off and punched the heckler in the face, with it all caught on video, courtesy of TMZ Sports.

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Auto Racing

Grading 2018′s New Driver/ Team Pairings – Alex Bowman/ Hendrick Motorsports

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Undeniably the apple of an entire nation’s eye for over two decades, Dale Earnhardt Jr poignantly announced in the spring of 2017 he would step away from driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

 

Once the initial shock value wore off, reality set in. Who could possibly fill the shoes of the sport’s most popular driver? Dale Jr’s lasting impression on legions of fans young and old is unparalleled. Ultimately the conundrum of the century would centre around who might fill the gargantuan shoes little E would leave behind.

Dale Jr’s departure from Hendrick Motorsports left one the sport’s most coveted rides up for grabs. Immediately the rumour mill was set ablaze with potential candidates loyal Dale Jr supporters fancied.  Following three months of intense speculation, Rick Hendrick would reveal Dale Jr’s replacement in late July 2017.

 

Next man up for the #88 team a tall lanky fella from Tucson Arizona.  Chances are y’all probably remember him as the kid that subbed for Dale Jr while he recovered from concussion-like symptoms that kept him from the seat of the Nationwide Chevrolet in the fall of 2016.

 

Certainly no stranger to the Monster Energy Cup Series (Made 81 Career starts from 2014-2016), Alex Bowman makes his triumphed return as a full time driver on the circuit for the first time in nearly two years. Driving the #88 car for Hendrick Motorsports axiomatically elevates Bowman from enchanting underdog to proverbial impact player. No longer a low man on the totem pole expeditious results at HMS would give credence to an emerging young star hoping for a rebirth following past failures with BK Racing & Tommy Baldwin Racing.

 

Thrust into a precarious position at the age of 21, Alex Bowman exhibited incredible poise in the face of adversity. Visibly Alex was not equipped for the competitive environment that cup racing bestowed upon him back in 2014. One quality season (2013 – 2 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s 2 poles, 11th in the driver standings) in the Xfinity Series cannot enumerate impending success on the other side.

Instead of licking his wounds Bowman bided his time wisely eventually earning the opportunity to sub for Dale Jr in the fall of 2016.  What could have easily morphed into catastrophic gaffe #3 for Bowman positively altered his career saving him from infinite anonymity.

 

In the 10 races (2016) Alex piloted the #88 car he made quite an accounting for himself (3 top 10’s, 1 pole) earning the respect and confidence of both Mr. Hendrick and Dale Jr.

 

The simple formula for success in 2018 relies squarely on the shoulders of Alexander Bowman.

Bowman’s familiarity with crew chief Greg Ives and the entire #88 team perpetuates some of the chemistry established back in 2016.  A contingent of smart fans out there including myself firmly believe Alex Bowman was on his way to capturing the checked flag at his home track(Phoenix) in November of 2016. On this day Bowman dazzled, starting the race from the pole ultimately leading 194 laps on his way to a career best 6th place finish.

 

Even though the former self-proclaimed bad luck Bowman left the desert without the checked flag, indisputably he walked away a winner.  Bowman’s courageous showing converted the cynics into believers. Without this fine performance in the bag Bowman could have found himself easily lost in the shuffle never to be heard from again.

Perseverance spearheaded the rise of Bowman mania. The whimsical wave of momentum Bowman’s been on since that race at Phoenix spilled over into 2017. Bowman turned heads in February finishing third in the Clash at Daytona, once again piloting the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet. He would also capture his first career Xfinity Series victory at Charlotte in the fall of 2017 driving for Chip Ganassi.

 

Perceptibly this young buck is completely equipped for the fate that awaits him once the green flag drops on the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series at Daytona in February.

Rick Hendrick has all the confidence in the world in Bowman’s capabilities. Mr. H could have taken the high road and hired an established veteran driver, instead trusting Bowman’s youthful exuberance lets the entire racing world know he’s committed for the long haul.

Alex Bowman has the credentials to resuscitate Rick Hendrick’s anaemic #88 team from the ashes. Fresh blood can unite an entire nation of fans that are starving for a breath of fresh air.

 

Don’t Be Dale Jr, Be Alex Bowman. That’s paramount.

 

Alex Bowman has an entire nation on his side. So watcha  gonna do when Bowmanmania runs wild on you?

 

Final grade – B

 

Photo courtesy of Autoweek

 

 

 

 

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