Monday, November 22, 2010

TNQC and TNRC after Homestead

Well, going into the final weekend there were a couple of good storylines with my titles; could Jamie McMurray come from the clouds and pip his teammate for the QC? Could Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin do enough to knock off Jimmie Johnson in the RC?

Ultimately, Jamie Mac will be doing his best Captain Kirk impression of "Kaaaaaaaaaaaahne!" after the Washington Wonder stole maximum points in the final race, denying McMurray the four points he needed once Montoya bombed out. Carl Edwards was best of the rest with, in possibly the surprise of the year, AJ Allmendinger edging out Greg Biffle for 14th.

All up, 52 drivers scored points in qualifying (and three washouts)...and yes, I shall list them all. Congratulations to Juan Montoya and the #42 crew for, finally, shoving Johnson off his qualifying perch.

Juan Montoya was the qualifying master for 2010.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying championship - full field:
1 - Juan Montoya, 122 points (3 poles)
2 - Jamie McMurray, 119 points (4 poles)
3 - Kurt Busch, 101 points (2 poles)
4 - Ryan Newman, 95 points (1 pole)
5 - Kasey Kahne, 91 points (4 poles)
6 - Jimmie Johnson, 90 points (2 poles)
7 - Clint Bowyer, 88 points
=8 - Jeff Gordon, 79 points (1 pole)
=8 - Mark Martin, points (1 pole)
10 - Tony Stewart, 75 points (2 poles)
11 - David Reutimann, 74 points
12 - Kyle Busch, 67 points (2 poles)

13 - Carl Edwards, 807 points (3 poles)
14 - AJ Allmendinger, 677 points (1 pole)
15 - Greg Biffle, 640 points
16 - Martin Truex Jr, 606 points (1 pole)
17 - Joey Logano, 563 points (1 pole)
18 - Denny Hamlin, 515 points (2 poles)
19 - Dale Earnhardt Jr, 487 points (1 pole)
20 - Jeff Burton, 465 points
21 - Paul Menard, 462 points
22 - Sam Hornish Jr, 415 points
23 - Matt Kenseth, 378 points
24 - Marcos Ambrose, 357 points
25 - Elliott Sadler, 348 points (1 pole)
26 - David Ragan, 320 points
27 - Brad Keselowski, 309 points (1 pole)
28 - Kevin Harvick, 285 points
29 - Regan Smith, 271 points
30 - Scott Speed, 199 points
31 - Casey Mears, 147 points
32 - Dave Blaney, 136 points
33 - Joe Nemechek, 130 points
34 - Bill Elliott, 96 points
35 - Reed Sorenson, 81 points
36 - Brian Vickers, 78 points
37 - Aric Almirola, 75 points
38 - Bobby Labonte, 69 points
39 - Michael McDowell, 41 points
40 - Jeff Fuller, 30 points
=41 - Boris Said, 12 points
=41 - Michael Waltrip, 12 points
=41 - JJ Yeley, 12 points
44 - Robby Gordon, 10 points
45 - Chad McCumbee, 9 points
46 - Landon Cassill, 6 points
=47 - David Gilliland, 3 points
=47 - Jeff Green, 3 points
=49 - Trevor Bayne, 1 point
=49 - Mike Bliss, 1 point
=49 - Patrick Carpentier, 1 point
=49 - Travis Kvapil, 1 point

Now for the RC. 48 drivers scored points...which was an omen in the end as, by dint of finishing ahead of his chief rivals, Jimmie secures the 2010 TNRC. Even allowing my 'half points' system to be scrapped and full points awarded every Chase race, he still would have done it so don't grumble about that. Like his teammate did in the QC, Matt Kenseth ran away in the end over Mark Martin for 13th. So congrats to Jimmie Johnson and the whole 48 team on, yet another, great year.

Jimmie Johnson racks up another RC.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - full field:
1 - Jimmie Johnson, 138.5 points (6 wins)
2 - Kevin Harvick, 126 points (3 wins)
3 - Denny Hamlin, 117.5 points (8 wins)
4 - Carl Edwards, 82 points (2 wins)
5 - Greg Biffle, 81.5 points (2 wins)
6 - Clint Bowyer, 78 points (2 wins)
7 - Jamie McMurray, 72 points (3 wins)
8 - Tony Stewart, 69 points (2 wins)
9 - Kyle Busch, 64 points (3 wins)
10 - Kurt Busch, 55 points (2 wins)
11 - Jeff Gordon, 50 points
12 - Jeff Burton, 39 points

13 - Matt Kenseth, 762 points
14 - Mark Martin, 665 points
15 - Joey Logano, 643.5 points
16 - Juan Montoya, 611.5 points (1 win)
17 - Ryan Newman, 555.5 points (1 win)
18 - Kasey Kahne, 539.5 points
19 - David Reutimann, 519 points (1 win)
20 - AJ Allmendinger, 438.5 points
21 - Martin Truex Jr, 417.5 points
22 - Dale Earnhardt Jr, 393 points
23 - Paul Menard, 384 points
24 - David Ragan, 286.5 points
25 - Marcos Ambrose, 264.5 points
26 - Brad Keselowski, 196 points
27 - Regan Smith, 189.5 points
28 - Sam Hornish Jr, 151 points
29 - Elliott Sadler, 143 points
30 - Scott Speed, 142.5 points
31 - Aric Almirola, 106.5 points
32 - Reed Sorenson, 102 points
33 - Brian Vickers, 99 points
34 - Robby Gordon, 75 points
35 - Mike Bliss, 51 points
36 - Bobby Labonte, 49.5 points
37 - Bill Elliott, 45 points
38 - Casey Mears, 28.5 points
39 - Trevor Bayne, 24 points
40 - David Gilliland, 16 points
41 - Boris Said, 15 points
=42 - Steve Park, 12 points
=42 - Ken Schrader, 12 points
44 - Kevin Conway, 9 points
45 - Jan Magnussen, 7.5 points
=46 - Patrick Carpentier, 6 points
=46 - Chad McCumbee, 6 points
48 - Hermie Sadler, 0.5 points

Thus endeth the 2010 TN titles...whether I tweak it in the offseason is up for debate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Will he or won't he?

The 'he' in question being Mark Webber with the discussion being about, not the Championship funnily enough, what he will be doing in 2011.

Having stated the other day what everyone already knew (that being that the big wigs at Red Bull would prefer to see Vettel win the title if given the choice), he's now opened the way for further whispers about whether he will see out his contract with Red Bull next year in an interview with the BBC if you take the article title at face value.

Reading between the lines though, I'm not sure he's said anything out of the ordinary.

He's 34, coming towards the end of the shelf life for an F1 driver, has been having easily the best season of his career and, if he does what he did in May by taking two wins in the space of a week (Spain and Monaco), will be crowned World Champion in Abu Dhabi on November 14.

"Pressure? What pressure, mate? Oh, that..."

I mean, there is a substantial difference between being asked "why did you retire?" over "why didn't you retire?" and I'm not just talking about two letters and the apostrophe.

Rumours have been tossed around the Australian, despite signing a one year extension a few months ago; he's going to retire, he's replacing Felipe at Ferrari being the main two...but I don't believe he will do anything other than be plonking his butt behind the wheel of a Red Bull when the 2011 season starts in Bahrain next March.

This Aussie hopes it's with a '1' on the nosecone.

Monday, October 18, 2010

TNQC and TNRC after Lowe's

Jeff Gordon's been heading in the right direction from last post (ninth to fifth) while Kurt Busch appears to be in freefall (fourth to eighth) at the moment. After storming to his fourth pole position last week at Fontana, Jamie McMurray nips past his teammate at the top of the table while the only guy to win this title is seemingly lurking back in fourth with five rounds to go.

Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch get the nod over Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Ryan Newman respectively by dint of having more pole positions.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - Chase field after 5 rounds:
1 - Jamie McMurray, 65 points
2 - Juan Montoya, 63 points
=3 - Kasey Kahne, 55 points
=3 - Jimmie Johnson, 55 points
5 - Jeff Gordon, 51 points
=6 - Kyle Busch, 48 points
=6 - Mark Martin, 48 points
=8 - Kurt Busch, 43 points
=8 - Ryan Newman, 43 points
10 - Tony Stewart, 38 points
11 - Clint Bowyer, 37 points
12 - David Reutimann, 27 points

The EGR duo are still the ones to beat at this stage.

With his front row effort at Lowe's, Carl Edwards sneaks out a bit of a lead over Martin Truex Jr for 13th while only AJ Allmendiger, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano seem to be the only other drivers capable of spoiling Carl's party.

To the RC then where, with back-to-back third place finishes, Jimmie Johnson extends his lead over Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. The biggest movers though are the last two winners as Tony Stewart jumps up from 11th to sixth while Jamie McMurray now sits fourth. Again, like in the QC, Kurt Busch has dropped back from last time (from fifth to ninth).

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - Chase field after 5 rounds:
1 - Jimmie Johnson, 85.5 points
2 - Kevin Harvick, 68 points
3 - Denny Hamlin, 67 points
4 - Jamie McMurray, 53 points
5 - Kyle Busch, 45 points
6 - Tony Stewart, 43 points
7 - Greg Biffle, 40.5 points
8 - Clint Bowyer, 36 points
9 - Kurt Busch, 34.5 points
10 - Carl Edwards, 32 points
11 - Jeff Gordon, 31 points
12 - Jeff Burton, 28 points

Vader's got the inside line over the rest, headed up by Happy.

Matt Kenseth is still more than a race ahead of Juan Montoya for 13th but he needs to look behind him as Mark Martin and Joey Logano are closing in on the Columbian.

With five weekends left, both titles are still up for grabs...although the other guys better figure out a way to beat Jimmie in the RC if they want it to stay that way.

Monday, October 4, 2010

TNQC and TNRC after Kansas

I wonder what odds you would have been given that Loudon would be the most exciting race of the Chase...or would you have been laughed out the door?

Anyway, three weekends down and while it's a familiar name on top in the RC, it's EGR leading the way in the QC. Juan Montoya has been 'the man' thus far and has opened up a small lead over Jamie McMurray. Jimmie Johnson, who's had a stranglehold on this thing from when I first started it back in 2007, has been somewhat quiet and sits sixth.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - Chase field after 3 rounds:
1 - Juan Montoya, 46 points
2 - Jamie McMurray, 41 points
3 - Kasey Kahne, 37 points
4 - Kurt Busch, 34 points
5 - Tony Stewart, 33 points
6 - Jimmie Johnson, 31 points
7 - Kyle Busch, 29 points
8 - Ryan Newman, 27 points
9 - Jeff Gordon, 26 points
10 - Clint Bowyer, 24 points
11 - Mark Martin, 22 points
12 - David Reutimann, 19 points

Carl Edwards is hanging on to 13th but AJ Allmendinger is making a charge. Truex, Biffle, Logano and Hamlin seem to be the only other ones capable of getting there.

To the RC where, despite having an ordinary day at New Hampshire, Johnson was back in the lead after his win a week later at Dover. The main reason was that, like I've done with all races under 400 miles in length, he only lost 10.5 points on the field rather than the full 20. The biggest loser compared to the real points has to be Jeff Gordon who is 9th in mine while Greg Biffle is the big winner and sits 4th. Also, Jamie McMurray is hanging on in 7th, not bad for a bloke who didn't actually make the official Chase.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - Chase field after 3 rounds:
1 - Jimmie Johnson, 57.5 points
2 - Kevin Harvick, 48 points
3 - Denny Hamlin, 45 points
4 - Greg Biffle, 29.5 points
5 - Kurt Busch, 28.5 points
6 - Kyle Busch, 27 points
7 - Jamie McMurray, 26 points
8 - Carl Edwards, 23 points
9 - Jeff Gordon, 21 points
10 - Jeff Burton, 20 points
11 - Tony Stewart, 19 points
12 - Clint Bowyer, 15 points

It's not looking brilliant for the other 11 guys...but both Martinsville and Pheonix, while being good tracks for Jimmie, are also half pointers so we'll see. Outside the Chase, Matt Kenseth is looking good for 13th, more than a full race in front of Montoya in 14th.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And then there were three?

Well, one more GP has gone by and it would seem my my comment about the McLaren having the third best car is holding true. Not only was Hamilton dropping back from Alonso and Vettel, he also got jumped by Webber at the pitstops. While he did slice the gap down from eight to four seconds before the safety car, it was all for nothing as the duo collided on lap 34, leaving Lewis with a broken left rear suspension while Mark escaped with a banged up front right wheel (there was a decent gap between the tyre itself and the rim...see the picture below). Further proof of that was that, despite Jenson being in a perfectly good car, he still couldn't do anything with Webber's wounded Red Bull.

Webber's wheel after the contact...see the gap at the top of the rim? It should be flush with the sidewall.

Considering Lewis' mishap at Monza with his right front being broken from contact with Massa's Ferrari, one has to wonder if McLaren have sacrificed robustness in their quest to keep up the pace of development...

Anyway, the table now sees Webber holding an 11 point gap over the hard charging Alonso, with Hamilton another nine behind that. Vettel and Button are still hanging in, being 21 and 25 points off Mark's tally. Meanwhile, Red Bull have pulled a bit of a gap over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, with Ferrari really needing Felipe to step it up if they want to make it a three way tussle.

With just four races to go (three if Korea isn't ready in time), Webber is hanging on pretty well. He might not be winning, but he's still scoring decent points and they guys behind him keep swapping places so he's padding to his lead...but Alonso is coming fast and is, quite possibly, in better form now than what saw him claim back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. The wildcard is probably Hamilton who, after saying his chances were looking bleak, doesn't really have anything to lose.

If Webber can pull it off, it will be an amazing turnaround from 2009. Leaving Hungary second in the standings, he then went four races in a row without scoring a point. With Japan being the last of those, and considering how mighty the Red Bull was there last year in Vettel's hands, he's well on his way to banishing that stretch of races from his mind having gone second, sixth and third in the same three races this year.

Still anyone's title...but McLaren appear to be starting to fade a touch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A belated 2010 Winter Olympics post

Ok, first things first; yes, this post is some six months after the fact but I was hoping this particular day would come. See, there was a display here which had the Olympic medals and people were allowed to get up close and personal with them. Also, klv requested this and after the F1 fiasco last week, I thought I'd better pull my finger out and do this ASAP.

So, without further interruption, here's my experience of the 2010 Games from an Abbotsford perspective. Unlike the Sydney Games back in 2000, I was close enough to the host city to feel the vibe this time...and besides, I like the Winter Games more anyway.

At the time, I was working at the airport so we got a pretty good feel of both the Olympics and Paralympics. Not only did we get a brand new FBO (fixed base operator) that processed the private jets that came in, we also had a few 'names' pop by (the Governator, Vice President of Russia, hockey players, that kind of thing). February 28 was the busiest day, airspace-wise, in this regions history; Abbotsford processed some 80 jets alone.

She was a busy Sunday at YXX.

How we kept track of the planes expected at the FBO.

The torch swung by a few times, although the official torch relay date was February 7. I believe there was some small gridiron game played on that day as well but this was far more cooler. The airport itself got to see the torch a further two times, and yes we all got our pikkies taken with it. The torchhad a funky little maple leaf engraved on the side but none of the pictures I took of it really turned out very well so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Yes, that is an Australian National Ice Hockey jersey...and yes, it was worn to work a few times.

I had no idea I was at a changeover point until the bearer on the right turned up.

As far as Vancouver goes, I ventured in on the 20th to soak in the atmosphere...mighty glad I did since the buzz in the host city was amazing. Rather ordinary timing from me however as that was the one day Canada didn't win a medal. I suppose I could say I was one of the rare people to experience the Olympic rings in their typical blue colour rather than lighting up whichever colour medal Canada had won.

Downtown Vancouver during the Games.

The Olympic rings from across the water.

The first day people were allowed to get close to the flame.

Which brings us round circle to today where I was fortunate enough to get a photo of me with a gold medal...alas, that didn't bring Australia's tally up by one but frankly, I don't care. According to the little fact sheet I picked up today, 615 medals were handed out at the Olympics and 399 for the Paralympics.

Gold to Austral...wait, what do you mean 'no'?

All in all, the two months went by pretty well. It was both Australia's and Canada's most successful games in history and we got a ripsnorter of a hockey match as a finale...Sochi in 2014 has a bit to live up to.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chase fields for the TNC's

Ok, now that the first 26 rounds are done, we have the only 12 guys in with a shot to win the titles. In a rather dull twist, the QC dozen stayed the same after Bristol while Clint Bowyer snuck past Matt Kenseth in the RC. Ultimately, Jimmie Johnson ended up with the lead after 26 rounds of qualifying but it's Jamie McMurray who ranks first having scored the most pole positions. The RC saw Kevin Harvick unable to be caught after his win in Michigan and, coupled with his three wins, he and Denny Hamlin lead the way as we head to Loudon.

So to the resets then.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - chase field with bonus points:
1 - Jamie McMurray, 12 points (3 poles)
=2 - Kurt Busch, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Kyle Busch, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Kasey Kahne, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Juan Montoya, 8 points (2 poles)
=2 - Tony Stewart, 8 points (2 poles)
=7 - Jimmie Johnson, 4 points (1 pole)
=7 - Mark Martin, 4 points (1 pole)
=7 - Ryan Newman, 4 points (1 pole)
=10 - Clint Bowyer, 0 points
=10 - Jeff Gordon, 0 points
=10 - David Reutimann, 0 points

The battle for 13th appears to be a seven man one with Carl Edwards holding onto it right now but I'd give down to Greg Biffle (95 points behind) in 19th a shot.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - chase field with bonus points:
=1 - Denny Hamlin, 24 points (6 wins)
=1 - Kevin Harvick, 24 points (3 wins + 12 bonus)
3 - Jimmie Johnson, 20 points (5 wins)
4 - Kyle Busch, 12 points (3 wins)
=5 - Kurt Busch, 8 points (2 wins)
=5 - Jamie McMurray, 8 points (2 wins)
=7 - Greg Biffle, 4 points (1 win)
=7 - Tony Stewart, 4 points (1 win)
=9 - Clint Bowyer, 0 points
=9 - Jeff Burton, 0 points
=9 - Carl Edwards, 0 points
=9 - Jeff Gordon, 0 points

Kenseth sits 13th, with Juan Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin possibly being the only ones capable of knocking him off.

Remember, the points for the Chase guys now switch to the old CART system (20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) with a bonus point for actually winning the race/nabbing pole position and half points for the races at Loudon, Martinsville and Phoenix as neither reach 400 miles.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is the 2010 F1 title the one no one wants to win?

Well, the European part of the season is over and the teams pack up and head to Singapore for the next round in a fortnight. As most predicted, Monza saw the Red Bull's struggle (though nowhere near as badly as 2009) but the rest of the cards fell off the table I think.

After having the car to beat at both Montreal and Spa, this should have been a slamdunk for McLaren...well, either they didn't get that memo or it lost something in translation as Ferrari delivered an uppercut to that idea. If Spa was brilliant for Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, Monza was just as good for Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel as Lewis had a brainfade and wrecked on lap 1 while Webber was left frustrated having stared at the rear wing of Hulkenburg's Williams for pretty much the entire race and had to make do with sixth.

With those five guys now back to being within a race win of each other, it begs the question; who wants it more?

1 - Mark Webber, 187 points
2 - Lewis Hamilton, 182 points
3 - Fernando Alonso, 166 points
4 - Jenson Button, 165 points
5 - Sebastian Vettel, 163 points

Red Bull - with the best car and, arguably, the most talented driver in Vettel, the team went into the year as favourites. While the car is lightning fast, it has proven a little fragile (Sebastian's lost a bunch of points in Bahrain, Australia and Spain) but it's been Webber who has been 'the man'. Both guys are brilliant when out front but only Vettel seems to have that killer instinct when needing to work up through the field (as he showed at Silverstone) while Mark tends to struggle (Valencia anyone?). However, Vettel has also shown signs of cracking under pressure (as he showed at Silverstone, Germany and Spa) while Mark's been pretty solid.

McLaren - they have the last two world champs in their camp, the strongest engine and possibly the best overall group of guys at the factory. They started off a little slowly in Bahrain but whenever the track got wet, the Lewis-Jenson duo quickly showed exactly why they have won the last two titles (both of Button's wins came in the wet while Lewis was supreme at Spa). But when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong in a big way (Jenson retiring on lap 2 at Monaco as the team forgot to remove one of the blankets on the sidepod and it overheated the engine, Lewis losing a certain podium at Spain when his suspension failed on the last lap). The thing is though, while this is the best driver pairing, they have, possibly, only the third best car on the grid and that might prove to be their downfall in the end.

Ferrari - throwing all their weight behind the two time champion, the weight of expectation and a team fired up after a dismal 2009. They got off to the perfect start, going 1-2 at Bahrain, then appeared to slowly disappear from radar until Germany when they did it again. Alonso's only weakness comes from within; he's on his eighth and last engine and, with all due respect to Felipe Massa, doesn't have a teammate capable of pushing him all the way like Red Bull and McLaren do. I think the Ferrari is the second best car...but whether that's enough will have to wait to be seen.

Of the tracks remaining, you'd have to give the nod to Red Bull (of the four used last year, they won on three), but will infighting between Webber and Vettel allow the other three the advantage they need to pip them at the post?

The last time I recall five guys gunning for the title was in 1986 with Mansell, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Rosberg...and that year ended with Nigel's spectacular tyre blowout at Adelaide which ultimately led to Prost nabbing his second title.

Personally, I think it'll be either Jenson or Mark...they seem to be the most consistant of the bunch. Obviously, I shall be cheering on my fellow Aussie.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rookie, Sophomore, uh...Veteran?

Lap 16 at Spa-francorchamps might just have been the pivotal point of the 2010 F1 season. With Fernando Alonso having a shocker, Jenson Button's McLaren was running second and was being stalked by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. Jenson covered the inside so Vettel flicked hard to the left, lost control and speared into the sidepod of the reigning World Champ. That left Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber to pick up the pieces as the points went from five guys within a race win to just those two.

McLaren were not amused and Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, responded back to the criticism over Vettel's driving, "He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it is easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced - but for sure he will learn a lot from what happened."

That got me much experience do you need to shake off being labelled inexperienced; five seasons, ten, two, where is the cutoff?

I think it depends on exactly what type of experience you're talking about. Taking Red Bull as the example, Mark Webber started in F1 back in 2002 while Vettel came onto the scene in 2007 (for 8 races with BMW and Toro Rosso). However, both guys didn't have topline equipment until 2009, so one could claim that Webber was just as new at racing at the front as Vettel was, despite the five seasons' difference from when they made their debut.

Racing incident or a rookie mistake by someone who should know better?

So is that why the Australian has been more consistant this year than last, because he has those extra years? Maybe, maybe not. Two other 'big name' guys also started in 2007; Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica (ok, Bob had six starts in 2006 after Villeneuve left the team) and while Lewis missed out on nabbing the title in that year with a rookie error at Japan, he made up for it by winning it in 2008. Kubica meanwhile got a semi-topline car in 2008 with the BMW. It wasn't on the pace of the Ferrari or McLaren everywhere, only at a few tracks, yet that didn't stop Robert from taking the title fight, mathematically anyway, up to the second last race.

No then, perhaps that isn't the reason why Sebastian has been hot and cold in 2010. And the pressure can't be it either since I'd wager Hamilton was under more in 2008 than Vettel is this year (he's not considered 'baby Schumi' for nothing). Nor really can age as Lewis and Robert both were mighty consistant in 2008 when they were the same age, 23, as Sebastian is now...and they had less races under their belts.

Back to the original question then; just what defines being called an experienced racecar driver? Personally, I think that in F1, it's either four years or two with a great team, whatever arrives first.

Which means, Mr Horner, that I don't believe you can use that excuse with Vettel since he's at that point now. Basically, Mark's done the better job thus far this season, despite everyone saying Vettel would blow his doors off just like he did in the points last year. Either that or Sebastian is just trying too hard, which isn't an excuse either as I presume the team have more than enough resources to deal with that situation...if not, they can always phone Kristen I guess *laugh*

So what do you reckon the changeover point in NASCAR is, when does the guy behind the wheel become a grizzled veteran driver?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Better late than never...the TNC's are back!

As I mentioned on Gene's blog, I wasn't intending on doing these this year...mainly since I'm lazy and keeping it up to date could be a pain in the butt *laugh*

Righto, the rules I guess:

- Both titles for 26 rounds use an old V8 Supercar points system which only awarded the top 17 finishers (72, 60, 51, 45, 39, 36, 33, 30, 27, 24, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, 1).

- Once the Chase guys are set, those 12 use the old CART points (20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). The remaining drivers use the V8 points, but these 12 are excluded from them (hypothetically, the 'winner' of a Chase race who isn't in the Chase could have actually finished 13th on the track).

- Washouts in qualifying don't count towards the QC, while any races less than 400 miles (couldn't even get that right in my comment...sorry, Gene) or don't get to 75% distance only get half points.

- Bonus points for wins/poles are 4 x however many you start the Chase with. If a Chase guy wins a Chase race, they get an additional point (so 21 or 11 depending on race distance).

- Leader after 26 rounds get 4 bonus points per round they clinched (eg: Harvick couldn't be topped in the RC after race 23, so he will get an additonal 12 points when we start...not counting his wins).

I think that's it, so here are the top 20 of each.

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - after round 24:
1 - Jimmie Johnson, 723 points (1 pole)
2 - Juan Montoya, 654 points (2 poles)
3 - Kasey Kahne, 609 points (2 poles)
4 - Kurt Busch, 585 points (2 poles)
5 - Ryan Newman, 524 points (1 pole)
6 - Jamie McMurray, 520 points (3 poles)
7 - Jeff Gordon, 510 points
8 - Tony Stewart, 508 points (2 poles)
9 - Kyle Busch, 475 points (2 poles)
10 - Mark Martin, 474 points (1 pole)
11 - Clint Bowyer, 381 points
12 - David Reutimann, 370 points
13 - Martin Truex Jr, 306 points (1 pole)
14 - Dale Earnhardt Jr, 295 points (1 pole)
=15 - Joey Logano, 289 points (1 pole)
=15 - Greg Biffle, 289 points
17 - Carl Edwards, 273 points (1 pole)
18 - Sam Hornish Jr, 273 points
19 - AJ Allmendinger, 257 points (1 pole)
20 - Jeff Burton, 231 points

Interesting stat, considering his record of poles/start, Dale Jr was leading this after 9 rounds. Another nice point is that all the pole winners are in the top 20. Other notables; Hamlin is 21st on 227, Harvick 22nd on 219 and Patrick Carpentier brings up the back of the field in 42nd with a solitary point. So with two rounds left, the top six are all safe (Jeff and Tony are a handful of points off so they're pretty much locked in too, just not officially) while Bowyer and Reutimann will be looking over their shoulders if either have a poor effort at Atlanta.

To the RC where, as I said, Kevin Harvick clinched the pre-race title before last week after his win at Michigan. While 11 of my guys are in top 12 of the actual points, their positions are a bit changed up.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - after race 24:
1 - Kevin Harvick, 765 points (3 wins)
2 - Denny Hamlin, 563.5 points (5 wins)
3 - Kurt Busch, 544.5 points (2 wins)
4 - Jimmie Johnson, 495 points (5 wins)
5 - Jeff Gordon, 486 points
6 - Kyle Busch, 473.5 points (3 wins)
7 - Carl Edwards, 468 points
8 - Greg Biffle, 452 points (1 win)
=9 - Jeff Burton, 450 points
=9 - Tony Stewart, 450 points
11 - Jamie McMurray, 425.5 points (2 wins)
12 - Matt Kenseth, 393 points
13 - Clint Bowyer, 384.5 points
14 - Juan Montoya, 348 points (1 win)
15 - Kasey Kahne, 346 points
16 - Mark Martin, 321 points
17 - David Reutimann, 298 points (1 win)
18 - Joey Logano, 255 points
19 - Dale Earnhardt Jr, 246 points
20 - Ryan Newman, 230 points (1 win)

As with the QC, no one who isn't listed above has won a race this year. The anomly with my Chase is, obviously, Jamie McMurray...but having won two of the biggest races, I think it would be fitting if he can sneak in. Harvick's tally outstrips Jimmie's QC points, despite there being eight half point races (so far...Richmond is the last before the Chase starts) which doesn't affect the QC...I can almost picture Jon doing cartwheels *laugh*

All in all, 40 drivers have scored points, with Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott tied on three points at the bottom. With two to go, down to Mark Martin sit (barely in Mark's case) only a race behind for the battle for the last Chase spot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Move Over Race of Champions...

For the Aussies are coming.

As posted a couple of weeks ago, the V8 Supercars have eased up on their 'one off appearances' restrictions. Now while this particular post doesn't validate that fact (it's been that way for the enduros for a while now), I think it certainly might play a part in the aftermath of what is going to happen on the Gold Coast in a couple months time.

Since the Indycars, in their infinite wisdom, dropped Surfers Paradise from the schedule, the V8's picked up the slack by running an extra race. This year though, they've decided to make it an endurance race instead. So how does that previous blog fit into the 'Gold Coast 600' weekend?

Simple really, particularly when you look at the names on the entry list so far; Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, David Brabham, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, Scott Pruett...the list goes on. Why did I wait until today to post? Honestly, I didn't know until I saw that Heinz-Harald Frentzen (who so very nearly won the 1999 F1 a Jordan!) had pulled out and some bloke called Helio Castroneves would replace him instead. The full list of international drivers that are pencilled in can be found on this website.

Here is Pruett's take on the event: “I don’t need any excuse to come to Australia, so when I received a call to be part of this program I jumped at the chance. I think the opportunity to drive a V8 Supercar on one of the world’s greatest street courses will be pretty attractive to plenty of the world’s great drivers.”

The race will take place over the weekend of October 24, same weekend as Martinsville. If only the race was shown live on TV here, that weekend would be an absolute blast...maybe someone will pick it up and we won't have to wait a week until Speed shows it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hat-trick Hunting at Watkins Glen

**the pikkies are from 'Getty Images' by the way**

Three very different drivers were trying to achieve their own little piece of history in the Nationwide series on the weekend. Last years' champ, Kyle Busch, was gunning for his third consecutive race win in the races he'd actually bothered to do this year. Carl Edwards was going for his third win in a row on road courses dating back to the 2009 Montreal race. While Marcos Ambrose was aiming to be just the second driver in series history to win three straight races at Watkins Glen.

All signs were pointing to an absolute classic race between the three of them as they all started in the top five...lest we forget about the two 'spoilers' in Harvick and Logano who are both pretty handy in a NW car themselves.

Ambrose leads the field to the green flag.

Yes, this could have been epic...until the Australian decided to stink up the show by leading 60 of the 82 laps on his way to winning for the first time from pole position.

The words of the legendary F1 commentator, Murray Walker, when Damon Hill won the Japanese GP to clinch the title in 1996 come to mind; he took the lead, he stayed there. Logano was able to hang with him for the first 20 odd laps, Carl wasn't a factor as his engine had a meltdown, and Kyle made Marcos work hard to get around him, the chance finally coming when Ambrose used traffic as a pick to box Kyle in. But, ultimately, there was simply no one capable of beating him. Not even the added pressure of having the race sponsor on his car could slow him down.

Marcos Ambrose driving into Victory Lane for the third year in a row.

Like the two previous years, Ambrose couldn't quite sweep the weekend but a solid third does gain him a couple spots in the Cup standings. As for the NW drivers...well, there's always next year to see if someone can knock him off since the following equation makes for pretty good reading right now: 3(MA + NW + WG) = VL.

Next up for Marcos is the race in Montreal where he should already have three wins as well...hopefully this will be the year.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

V8 Supercars Playing Tennis

Well sort of; they're borrowing the idea of the 'wildcard'.

All this means is that they can avoid the situation that came up at the end of last year when the Cup season was over and Ambrose was back home and hoping to drive in the final race...he couldn't due to the rules so the V8 bigwigs changed the rules.

It's posted on the yahoo site and, I reckon, is actually a good idea.

NASCAR sort of have it already given you can swap drivers about as often as the teams swap tyres, so they probably won't 'borrow' this idea like they have with a bunch of others (the wing, the 'have at it boys' mentality...still waiting on the Cup boys racing in the rain though).

Nifty thinking and could be a great way to boost the international awareness of the series.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Silly Season Gets Kick-started Again

First it was the Kasey Kahne to Hendrick Motorsports announcement in April. That was followed up by the "will he, won't he" saga of Brian Vickers (ever racing again) and Elliott Sadler (staying at Petty). Lately it's been what Red Bull will do with the #82 and who Bobby Labonte is going to be driving for each week. And now, a new name has been thrown into the ring.

JTG Daugherty's announcement yesterday (as fireball posted) that, after five seasons by years end, they will part ways with Marcos Ambrose was a shock to me - although not to other people...don't you hate being out of the loop? - since I just figured he'd stay until the end of his contract next year. However, while the reasons given were simply a case of wanting to go in different directions, that means all we have is speculation.

Ambrose drove for Ford in his V8 Supercar days. Ford also unlocked the door for him to come into NASCAR in 2006 (was still up to him to open it and walk through though). As Brad Daugherty said in his interview on NASCAR Now yesterday, while we all believe the #47 is part of MWR, they aren't really. Which therefore means they're a second year team, still finding their feet in the Cup series whereas, perhaps, Marcos desires results now.

Now, the technical alliance with MWR meant they needed to switch from Ford to Toyota and while this made a lot of sense in late 2008 (after all, Kyle won a bunch of races that year), it might not be the best option now. Why? Well, it's a bit complex really. The Chevy seems to be the best car in the field (whether it's down to having the majority of top teams or it's just the 'easiest' to set up, I don't know), Ford appears to be making big strides with their new engine package and the Dodges, despite only fielding three fulltime cars, are stunningly quick when the setup is spot on.

That leaves Toyota in a bit of a bind (my thoughts only). Yes Denny and Kyle have been on fire at times this year, and yes Reutimann scored a hugely popular win at Chicago...but what about the rest? Truex has shown flashes of brilliance at times, Red Bull haven't been the same since Vickers was forced out while Ambrose has been fluctuating between having solid races, mechanical issues or crashes.

I don't think anyone can say the Marcos Ambrose of 2009 wasn't a surprise. Not only was he a rookie, but no one really thought he'd do a whole lot on the ovals...well, it took him half a dozen races to chuck that theory out the window. Had things gone his way, the Aussie could easily have wins at Bristol, Sonoma, Watkins Glen and Homestead on his resume before we started 2010. But, that didn't happen and while last year he was certainly the second best 'MWR' driver, he did, at times, prove to be better than Reutimann.

But that all changed with the signing of Truex (again, just my opinion). Here was a driver who has won Nationwide titles, won a Cup race, been in the other words, a proven talent behind the wheel. So that meant Marcos was demoted to being third in line, and that's a situation that is rather difficult to get out of. Basically, Ambrose made the only real choice he could; fly the nest.

However, there is a problem here (and yes, I didn't really like writing this next part but they are the facts).

While most agree that the Aussie is a PR dream with his huge smile and how his sponsors adore him, what exactly has he done? He has 3 pole positions (1 Truck, 2 Nationwide) and a pair of wins in the Nationwide series, neither on an oval. He led more laps at this years Sonoma race (35 I believe) than he did all of last year and, unlike a Paul Menard, he doesn't bring any sponsors with him. That's not exactly lighting the racing world on fire when you put it like that, is it? His one saving grace is that while his statistics don't back it up, he is a very handy little driver as he proved last year and if he's given the right environment, he would probably flourish.

It's just that finding that right environment is so often the hard part...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Red Bull Gives You Wings...Mark Webber's Actually

We've seen it happen before; Driver 'X' knows their contract is up at the end of the season so they'll put in a couple dazzling displays to showcase their talent so teams will want to snap them up before someone else does. Well, Mark Webber already did that...a couple months ago in fact when he blitzed the field in Spain and Monaco. He and Red Bull did the easy thing and inked an extension that will see the Aussie drive for them until the end of 2011.

Probably not beyond it though, not with the current dynamics in the team anyway.

Sebastian Vettel is a superstar already, he proved that with his surprise victory at Monza in 2008. He consolidated that by finishing runner-up is the 2009 Championship. And he landed a dent in Mark Webber's title chase a couple weeks ago at Valencia as he thumped the opposition, leaving Webber flying over a Lotus in his wake, leapfrogging his teammate in the points. Meanwhile, Mark Webber seems to be more of a journeyman, a driver who can produce the odd great result, but not able to maintain a season long challenge for the title (after Hungary last year, he was ahead of Vettel but then had four straight races where he didn't score a point).

And so, when Vettel had a front wing failure in Saturday practice at Silverstone, the team decided to give him the one Webber was using. Mark's response to this was a storming start on Sunday from second on the grid, leaving Seb no choice but to yield going into turn one lest he run wide and risk getting a puncture (which he duly did...dang near ruined my trifecta too!), leading every lap (like he did in Spain, like he did in Monaco) to become the only driver this season to rack up three wins. In the process, he now sits third in the standings behind the McLaren back in front of Vettel in other words.

Was this the turning point for Webber's season; sculpting the anger from Saturday into a win on Sunday?

However, it was a unique situation Saturday. Red Bull brought a new front wing and only had two of them. So, when the one on Vettel's went snap, they figured that, as he was ahead in the points, they'd take the one from's nothing personal, just business. Webber acknowledged that in the post race interview, not that it stopped him from saying a classic "not bad for a number two driver," over the radio as he took the chequer, but he does want to sit down with the team to discuss what happened this week.

He has a point I reckon. The easiest way to have resolved the front wing deal would have been to do the old coin toss, rock-paper-scissors or some other option where both sides of the garage had a chance to put their case to why they should have the upgraded part, not just nick it from one to give it to the other...ahh well, hindsight and all that.

Webber and Vettel have already clashed this season with their infamous coming together at Turkey while running 1-2. Is it time for team orders or do you want your drivers to be pushing each other? McLaren don't seem to be having any issues with Jenson and Lewis, but then again, it's a slightly different situation there given that both guys have won the title before while the 'Bulls' want to both be the first to land the big prize.

So the question is this; will Mark Webber channel the anger he felt into a year long charge for the title, or was it just used up at Silverstone?

I think the scariest thing we learnt from Silverstone was that the Red Bull is still the class of the field...even without the trick new front wing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


For the fifth straight year, Queensland have beaten New South Wales to keep the State of Origin trophy tucked firmly north of the border. They actually did that a few weeks ago after winning game two, but I was somewhat preoccupied with a little trip down to California and forgot about it until bad.

Never in the thirty year history of Origin has one state won for more than three years in a row. Queensland's dominance can put down mainly to the world class backline they have with Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston steering the ship in the halves.

Now, I know most of you guys don't have much idea about Rugby League, so I have included the following link that shows patches of, arguably, Queensland's best ever player:

Darren Lockyer in action - 2001 to 2009 SOO highlights

Not really sure how best to explain Origin footy, but it basically boils down to players from all the NRL clubs being picked to represent the State in which they made their 'senior' debut in a three game series. In many ways, these games blow the NRL finals and international matches out of the water with its speed of play and intensity.

With a 23-18 win in game three Wednesday night, the Maroons became the first team to sweep a series since 2000 when NSW did it. Funnily enough, ever since I first came over here, Queensland have yet to drop a series...I think I'll stay at least another year then ;)

As former Queensland Origin player, Paul Vautin, says; go you good thing!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth Time's a Charm

It's a trek that has become somewhat of a ritual to one Australian; go to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, one of the toughest tracks on brakes in the world. He started going in 2007 when NASCAR decided to race the Busch series there and he's been back every year.

Not that he's had much good luck there.

Safe to say that Marcos Ambrose has dominated Montreal as in the 199 laps raced at the place, the Aussie has led 123 of them. He should have three wins but the racing Gods have conspired against him each time with last year possibly being the most heartbreaking. JTG Daugherty will, once again, provide the equipment that Ambrose hopes to drive to victory lane on August 29.

Event promoter, Francois Dumontier, is delighted Marcos is coming back and wishes him all the best in his quest to land the win. He had this to say on the matter; “If Marcos finally wins here, I am asking fans to celebrate his victory – first because he will have earned it, but also to give him the desire to come back again over the course of the next few years to try and win it again.”

I hope it's a case of fourth time lucky for him since I don't think there are any other ways for him to not win here. He's been punted on the last restart, beaten out by the weather and passed on the final corner. Doesn't leave many options left, does it?

As for Marcos, his target is simple; “We have only one goal, and that’s to win the thing.”

Strong words, but his history here shows he does have the ability to pull it off...if he gets a little good luck on his side for once.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The match that never ends...

Were these the most evenly matched tennis players ever in the history of the sport?

After three days, the American, John Isner, finally managed to make it into round two of Wimbledon after outlasting the Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, in a...well, the term 'marathon' doesn't even cover it. There were just three breaks of serve in the entire match; the first set, second set and, finally, the fifth set.

Now I'm sure you're thinking 'you mentioned three days, does that mean the match was affected by the weather?' and you'd be right. They did stop play due to that pesky thing called 'nightfall'...nothing to do with rain. The final score read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 having started at 6:18pm on June 22 before ending at 4:49pm June 24, local time.

Allow me to provide some of the stats on the official Wimbledon site from this battle of wills:
Aces - 215 (103 for Mahut, 112 for Isner)
Points won - 980 (502 for Mahut, 478 to Isner)
Unforced errors - 112 (60 and 62...that is hugely impressive over such a long time)
Games played - 183
Match duration - 665 minutes (yes, that is over 11 hours of just playing time!)

It's not every day you see a scoreboard reading that...and it wasn't even over yet!

The final set finished (eventually!) 70-68 having been deadlocked overnight at 59 games apiece. Along the way, the duo set numerous record including longest ever match (smashing the paltry 6 hours 40 hour and a half shorter than the fifth set alone!), most number of aces by a player (previous was 78) and most number of games played (it was 112).

There was a rather funny moment when the scoreboard died, IBM saying it only went up to 47 but this was soon rectified...they might have been worried about needing triple digits! Serena Williams and Roger Federer were asked about the match during their press conferences, both just saying that; oh yes, they'd be pretty silly if they didn't know what was going on.

When the match ended, the two players as well as the chair umpire received special awards for their participation in this historic match. Isner was in fact scheduled to play in the doubles yesterday but, obviously, that match got rescheduled.

"It stinks someone had to lose," Isner said after the match, "but to share this day with (Mahut) was an absolute honour." He added, to a few laughs, that he hopes to play Mahut in the future and hopefully that match won't go quite as long.

I loathe to say it since you never know, but I doubt we'll see a match going longer than this one in our lifetime. It truly was one for the ages...epic by any standard you want to throw at it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tez's Sonoma Weekend Report

**Ok, I won't be putting all my pictures up...this will be far too long as it is just with the ones I've picked**

Since Kristen nicked the race and qualifying titles, this shall have to suffice :P

I suppose that's as good a place to start really. For the second time in my life, I catch a plane to hook up with people I've only previously known online. Worked out just fine the first attempt, so I figured I'd approach it the same way in the hope that, unlike the song by Split Enz, history does repeat. And, lo and behold, from the instant Kristen laughed off my rant about the BART tunnels cutting my phone coverage at the critical moment, to the look she gave me that basically said "is that it? Where's the rest of your luggage?", I had a good feeling this weekend was going to be a classic (as I said at the time; if I can last two weeks out of that same backpack, five days is easy).

Being a morning person, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend who prefers to sleep until the crack of noon at the earliest, getting up at six on Friday didn't bother me much. After picking up RA6AN and dumping some of our stuff at the hotel, we ventured out for qualifying day. RA6AN and I were seated right alongside Victory Circle, so we had a pretty good view of the haulers and we were able to snap some shots of unsuspecting people (none as good as that shot of Chad though)...eventually, after we realised who the heck they were and got the cameras ready in time *rolls eyes*

Rick Hendrick being inducted.

The defending race winner.

The prerace favourite.

The Brew Crew going through their final checks before qualifying.

Clint must like getting his photo snapped...saw him a few times.

Who'd have picked Joey to be the highest finishing JGR driver?

Jeff giving tips to the rookie...maybe on the bump and run?

Yes, I was hoping Jeff turned to his left as well but he never did...the nearly shaved head next to him was Jan Magnussen by the way. And yes, that is our very own Kristen in the Blue Deuce shot. She claims she heard someone calling her name which is why she turned around...I say she saw Dale Jr and was wondering if anyone would notice if she bolted off after him ;)

We moved down towards the flag stand for qualifying which was rather strange for me since I assumed that, since he's from California, Jimmie 'Vader' Johnson (I'm sticking to the Yahoo! nicknames for them now) would have gotten cheered when he went to the top of the timesheets but the roar when Kasey knocked him off left me scratching my head before RA6AN said he's from the wrong part of California. It was around this time that my 'Team Kiwi Racing' shirt got recognised and we chatted to the people behind AmbroseChick's twitter (I think I'm still part of that group on actually) which was a very cool deal.

After deciding to go early again on Saturday - Kristen picking my weakness and stopping for coffee - I wandered, which soon became staggered, up the hill to turn two since I wanted to snap some pikkies of the cars coming through there at relatively slow speeds. We didn't stay for the West Series race in the end and managed to catch the last 20 odd laps of the Nationwide race from Road America once Jon got booked in.

Speed leads Truex and Hornish up the hill.

David and Jimmie heading to three.

Ambrose starting a hot lap.

An RCR and MWR truck minus the trailers.

Last shot was from the hotel on Friday night while the one before it is what I was hoping would happen Sunday afternoon (it was taken during Friday practice) *sigh*

The link (told you I'd find it, guys!) and photo below probably won't make a lot of sense since they both really were "you had to be there" moments we talked about on the way to dinner Saturday night.

The morning after Marcos announced he was heading over the Pacific.

Sunday dawned and, again, taking the offer of Starbucks in the morning, I arrived at the track with Kristen. After the hardest working non-payroll person in the Penske organisation went off to the garage, Jon and I went out onto pitlane, passing the time by chatting to a few of the many Aussies in attendence - it almost felt like a V8 Supercar race for me - before meeting up with RA6AN and Hoosier who managed to not get as sunburnt as us at Pebble Beach the day must be all those trees that litter the golf courses. Just before that, Kristen gave us a world class tour of Kurt's pit area which was highly impressive.

I'll confess to not taking many shots during the race since I figured that, between the four of us, we'd have enough photos over the course of the three days so I'll just put up two; my boxing kangaroo flag on the start/finish line during the prerace and the race winner taking the chequered flag.

It brought him luck for a while...and it got on 'Trackside'!

Jimmie ticking off a place he hadn't won at before.

Now, I want you to take a good look at that group photo that Kristen posted on her race day blog. See my smile and wonder if that's how I really felt? Well, the photo below I took in my hotel room (with the aid of the camera timer of course) after Jon and I had got back is a better reflection of my feelings I reckon...they say a picture is worth a thousand words but I'm pretty sure this has just one; bugger.

Marcos gave it his all, but came up empty in the end.

However, I've moved beyond it now. I am very proud that Marcos took the fight to Vader since it had all the makings of another Phoenix 2009 Autumn (hey, I still write 'tyre', you're not getting me to call it 'Fall') race until then.

The story doesn't end there for who should I run into at SFO but Mr M. Waltrip. Had a very brief chat with Mikey since our lines were moving in the opposite direction, he just gave me a rueful nod and a "thought we had it" before I wished his teams all the best for next week...even me with my limited knowledge on personalities could tell he was still crushed over the ending (heck, so am I!).

I'll close with this; I thoroughly enjoyed going to this race in 2006, no question about that. But the 2010 version was so much more special as I went with three amazing NASCAR fans that I have no issues at all adding to my met-in-real-life-so-they're-not-only-online-anymore friends list. Thank you Kristen, RA6AN and Jon for making a very cool weekend even better.

And that is why, despite my having a sore throat (remind me to never use the air conditioners in that place again), despite my legs feeling like lead and despite my boy fluffing the best chance he's had yet to win a Cup race, my smile in the group shot was 100% genuine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Swapping more than paint

Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose.

One a bonafide NASCAR star, the other just getting into his stride having rebooted his career for the third time. Including Ambrose's V8 Supercar stats, they have racked up 110 wins and six championships in their careers between them.

So we're talking about two pretty handy racing drivers.

Last week at the Watkins Glen tyre test, Polaris met Southern Cross (for all you Astronomy buffs out there) as Gordon handed Ambrose the keys to his #24 Dupont Chevrolet while Ambrose did the same with his #47 Little Debbies Toyota...don't worry, they both cleared it with the manufacturers.

Jeff should be old hat at this since he did a similar thing around a decade ago with Montoya's F1 car at Indy but I don't think Marcos has experienced swapping cars - paint, words and ends, yes, but not cars - before, so I'm sure behind his cheshire cat grin there would have been a tiny pang of worry.

After climbing out, the Aussie had this to say: “There’s probably only a handful of people in the world that can say they drove Jeff Gordon’s race car. It was a real thrill for me. I will never forget it. He’s a pretty small guy, he’s not that tall and he’s got a narrow waist. I wasn’t that comfortable in the car, but I was squeezing in that bad boy no matter how hard I had to try.”

“It was remarkable how similar in feel they were. There were differences of course between the two. I’m glad I could help him if he needed it to get around that place. I’m no expert. I’m just out there driving a race car. Just to be asked in the first place was a massive thrill for me. I will never forget it.”

He did have one regret though; no one managed to take a photo of him in the #24.

As for Gordon, he reckoned he finally figured out Marcos' secret on road courses: “I learned two things there at the test. One is that when Marcos Ambrose goes really fast through the road courses, it’s not his race car. He’s just really fast. He got in my car and went really fast. I got in his car and went slow. It was just basically that Marcos is fast and that we’ve got really good power. That’s what I learned. Our Chevys haven't been as good as we felt like they needed to be so just gathering information plus I like Marcos. He's a good guy and a heck of a road course racer.”

Now, before we all get excited over this and rumours start circulating about Rick scoping out someone to replace Jeff when he finally chooses to hang up his helmet, I don't think this was anything more than two drivers just wanting a chance to do something a touch different and I'm sure the respect each have for the other probably went up a notch.

Besides, as Marcos said, there are very few people on the planet who can lay claim to have driven Jeff Gordon's race car...even if it was just for a handful of laps.

Monday, May 17, 2010

'The greatest day of my life'

I think he summed it up wonderfully in the post-race interview; it was the best day of his life thus far.

It took 51 years, but an Australian driver finally reigned supreme around the hallowed streets of Monte Carlo. For the first time in his career, Mark Webber managed to snag two consecutive pole positions and translated it into two consecutive wins.

Things didn't look quite like that, however, as while the Red Bull chassis was the one to beat through all of practice, qualifying and the race at Spain, it wasn't until the final moments of qualifying in Monaco did they put their stamp on this, the most prestigious race on the F1 calender.

Robert Kubica in the Renault was the man to beat, setting a blistering lap to be sitting some four tenths clear of, then second place man, Lewis Hamilton (and over a second ahead of Schumacher who was third!) until Webber produced the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. He then did it again, slicing even more time off his lap to wind up on the pole by about 0.3 seconds, with his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, settling for third a further tenth back.

Webber is closing in on Raikkonen's record of most consecutive laps lead having gone flag-to-flag in the last two races.

Mark got away well enough on Sunday, leaving Kubica to battle into the first corner with Vettel, Felipe Massa and Hamilton and that was pretty much the story of the race really. Yes there were four safety cars over the course of the day but all those did were cut Webber's lead over Vettel and allow for Fernando Alonso to close up after starting 24th and last from the pitlane after a crash in Saturday practice (he managed to finish sixth).

It was Red Bull's second 1-2 finish for 2010 and with the way things panned out for the others, they now lead the Constructors' and Drivers' standings for the first time in their history. Maybe now all the pundits whispering about Mark being over the hill and being replaced with Kimi Raikkonen next year will stop for a while to wipe the egg off their faces since Webber doesn't look ready to quit right now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rugby League's Darkest Day

April 22, 2010 will forever be etched into the minds of every NRL fan. One of the competition frontrunners, Melbourne, the team who had won the title in 2007 and 2009 got hit with the largest ever penalty in Australian sporting history. Over a period of five years, they managed to conceal over A$1.7 million worth of payments to the players, breaching the salary cap.

Their punishment for this was that they were stripped of both titles, their minor premier status (winning the most points before the playoffs start) from 2006-2008, all their points in this current season and can't win any points for the rest of the year, fined A$500,000 and forced to repay over A$1 million in prize money.

At this stage, the NRL are pointing the finger at the officials, not the players.

Where this now leaves the club that has had to fight its way into peoples hearts given the fact that it's the AFL, not the NRL, that Melbourne gears up for remains unknown as there are talks the team will fold in the light of these revelations.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Congratulations Hank!

This weekend saw the end of the two scoring titles in the NHL and they both went right down to the wire. Ultimately, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos tied for the Rocket Richard trophy with 51 goals apiece, while Henrik Sedin banished the Vancouver demons of 2002/2003 that saw Markus Naslund pipped for the Art Ross trophy on the final day of the season.

This time though, the Canucks wouldn't be denied as it became quite obvious early on in the game against the Flames what their game plan was; don't shoot the puck unless the pass came from Henrik.

Henrik became the first Canuck player to win the Art Ross trophy.

He ended up with four assists to move three points ahead of Ovechkin, then had to wait for the Sunday games to be over before knowing if he'd done enough. Yes, 'the great eight' played ten less games this year, yes both he and Crosby scored a lot more goals than Henrik...but Henrik's red hot form around Christmas proved to be the difference in the end.

Whether or not this lifts a somewhat flat Vancouver team going into the playoffs remains to be seen, but, for today at least, they know they have the best player in the league.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Ambrose Angle - 2010

Well, after my brilliant predictions last year where I said Marcos would be lucky to finish in the top 25 by the end of the season, I'm not sure exactly how accurate this will be either.

Oh well.

They say that drivers are only as good as their last that means either 35th (Homestead) or a DNF (Dubai 24 hours) for the Aussie, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Ignoring Dubai since that has no impact on NASCAR, Ambrose qualified third at Miami and made short work of the eventual champion by passing Jimmie around lap ten. That's when, first a punctured Goodyear, and then mechanical gremlins struck the #47 Camry forcing Marcos to pootle around some 15 laps off the pace despite having one of the fastest cars in the field. But it doesn't end there either as a couple weeks before that at Texas, he was looking good for a top five but asked too much of his fuel and wound up 11th.

Marcos himself has said his goals are to win races and make the Chase in 2010, something he admits in the next sentence is a tall order. Yet his performances on tracks no one really thought he'd do a whole lot on (you don't get much more diverse than Bristol, Talladega and Pocono for the ovals) says that he could have a pretty good shot at it. Having Truex join MWR will boost JTG Daugherty as well since, despite being an exceptionally good marketing man, Michael Waltrip didn't really push Marcos to produce his best on those weekends that Reutimann struggled.

Marcos will be hoping to repeat his late-2009 pace to get off on the right foot in 2010.

But enough about his teammates, exactly what do I think will Marcos Ambrose do in 2010?

Well, it would be quite easy for me to say that he'll win since he has more seat time now and those road courses are coming up in the middle of the year...but I reckon he might win before then.

Yes, that's right. I believe that Ambrose will do what Montoya has yet to do; win on an oval (possibly as early as the Las Vegas race). I'm not quite as confident as he is to predict he'll make the Chase, however if MWR and JTG Daugherty have their reliability issues sorted (and Denny Hamlin doesn't decide to play steamroller again), he would have a good shot at it.

All in all, if he can improve upon 2009 and finish in the top 15, I'll be a very happy man.

Monday, January 18, 2010

TNQC & TNRC - Chase results

I'm sure everyone has been waiting for this with baited breath...the Chase results of both the TNQC and TNRC. I will put up the rest of the points later (someone switched the sugar for salt at work today. Never try coffee with salt, you won't like it, bleah).

Tez's NASCAR Qualifying Championship - final Chase standings:

1 - Jimmie Johnson, 127 points (4 poles)
2 - Mark Martin, 124 points (7 poles)
3 - Jeff Gordon, 96 points (1 pole)
4 - Martin Truex Jr, 86 points (3 poles)
5 - Kasey Kahne, 84 points
6 - Juan Montoya, 81 points (2 poles)
7 - Ryan Newman, 77 points (2 poles)
8 - Greg Biffle, 76 points
9 - Kurt Busch, 72 points
10 - David Reutimann, 61 points (2 poles)
11 - Kyle Busch, 58 points (1 pole)
12 - Brian Vickers, 55 points (6 poles)

So, after tieing for the most poles coming into the Chase, Vickers bombed out big time while Johnson continued on his merry way in being undefeated in the QC since I started it in 2007. Special mention must go to Truex who, after a big finish, managed to snag the best non-HMS spot as well as Martin who would have pipped Johnson had he managed to outqualify him at Homestead but it just wasn't to be.

Tez's NASCAR Race Championship - final Chase standings:

1 - Jimmie Johnson, 135 points (7 wins)
2 - Mark Martin, 102 points (5 wins)
3 - Jeff Gordon, 92 points (1 win)
4 - Denny Hamlin, 86 points (4 wins)
5 - Kurt Busch, 86 points (2 wins)
6 - Tony Stewart, 77.5 points (4 wins)
7 - Matt Kenseth, 74 points (2 wins)
8 - Juan Montoya, 72 points
9 - Kasey Kahne, 69.5 points (2 wins)
10 - Greg Biffle, 64 points
11 - Carl Edwards, 44 points
12 - Brian Vickers, 41.5 points (1 win)

Well, Johnson and Vickers bookend these standings as well while the defending champ, Edwards, will be quite disappointed he didn't finish higher. Kenseth made the most of his bumping of Newman from the real Chase by nabbing seventh due to Montoya's dismal race at Homestead while Hamlin got the nod over Busch for fourth due to winning more races.

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire #48 crew as they swept both titles for the second time in three years.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year...less than a month until the season kicks off again! :)