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 thinking...how 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 title...in 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.