Bristol Rollout

The remains of a beaten and battered gladiator have been loaded up and sealed in the trailer with all the words and frustrations of a crew who had such high hopes for this race. Hopes don’t make wins but hard work does. There’s no shortage of hard work with this group and I think they all know the win is coming.

The car didn’t unload fast as greased lightning but the crew worked and busted their knuckles to give Austin a car that qualified 15th. With a win in the Xfinity series heats and a 4th on Saturday, the team and fans were expecting a great result.

The day started with the Bass Pro Shops, Ranger Boats, Chevrolet falling back to 21st. After stops we started picking our way forward and eventually worked our way up to 12th. Pit crew was absolutely on it and kept the 3 car in contention from the start of the day until the end.

A little before halfway the 3 car sustained damage from the 34 running into the left rear. This caused a very bad and very smoky tire rub which forced Austin to pit. Right about this time, Lady Luck  went out for a hot dog and never returned. Caution came out while the crew was working and trapped Austin 2 laps down. The rest of the day the driver, engineers, Chiefs, and Flying Aces were busy working hard as they could. When it looked like we might be in line to get our lap back the car failed to fire. The whole day under caution Austin had to shut the motor off to keep it cool under caution, when it didn’t retire we went from 1 lap down to the only car 2 laps down and that is where the car stayed.

Near the end the 3 car was caught in someone else’s mess and damaged the fenders pretty well used up the rest of the car that hadn’t been hit by a car or wall.

The end of the day find the team P26, 2 laps down. There are still 14 teams that wish they had our result, so keep your chins up everyone. IT ONLY TAKES ONE WIN! Austin & the team will get it.

I will make you a bet, if it hadn’t been for an annoying steering issue for Austin in the pits he would’ve had a much better day. Weird things happen. Part failures happen. Difficulties have to be overcome!  Don’t get down now.

Besides, in the end… The hero still gets the girl.

“I … I stand! Not crawling, not falling down!”

-Not Falling by Mudvayne-

Overly Opinionated: Racing, Praying, Politics

After Texas a lot of media are talking about Phil Robertson’s prayer and his son’s endorsement of a politician and his endorsement of a politician. These media members say it’s wrong and it’s not a neutral stance like other sports. They say maybe the prayer is outdated. They say NASCAR is showing its “Redneck” and intolerant roots.

Lets start with “Redneck” and intolerance. First, the media calling anyone a “Redneck” with a negative connotation is intolerant. As Charlie Daniels has said, “A redneck ain’t nothing more than the working man.” You know, I’m ok with that. I work and take care of my family and my bills and I am a simple man who likes simple things. I’m a redneck and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s not as negative as the writers would have you believe.

As for intolerance, walk through the garage. Look around. You will see women and men. You will see multiple races, colors, ethnicities. You may not see it but there are multiple religions in the garage. NASCAR is not as intolerant as they’d have you believe. Could it be better? Who or what couldn’t be better? At least NASCAR is actively working to provide an environment of equality. These writers who are on the tour are only flashing click bait. Sensationalizing things for their own gain. Don’t buy it.

Then these writers say people “don’t watch racing because they don’t want religion forced down their throat” before the race. Show me the studies that say that. Prayer is one of our first basic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of this great nation. You are free to practice and free to not practice. It is your choice. If you are so offended by a prayer that you cannot be exposed to it, you’re doing freedom wrong. You cannot oppress an individual or group’s right to prayer simply because you don’t believe in it. If you are atheist feel free to ignore the prayer, go get a hot dog, go grab a beer, or just sit there and watch the spectacle.

Theres an old Army saying we used, “There’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” When you are in danger, no matter who you are, you’re praying for help. If you are an atheist and think, “I’d never say that.” Just remember, there will come a point when you cry out, “Someone help me!” even though there’s nobody there. Drivers know they are entering a dangerous situation. Drivers have always prayed together. There is nothing wrong with prayer. So why would anyone want to take away something that many see as positive? Because they feel it is negative? It is their choice to not practice, they do not have to.

When these same media then attack Phil & Willie Robertson for endorsing political candidates, I ask myself, “Why is this wrong?” The Robertson family chose to sponsor the race. Sponsors use NASCAR as a platform to sell their product and spread their message. That’s why they pay such hefty prices for sponsorships. We should thank them for sponsoring the event, not brow beating them. Sponsors are hard to come by. There aren’t many out there looking to drop a bunch of cash right now. This is their message, if you don’t like the message, ignore it. If you like it, thank them and buy their Duck Commander and Buck Commander calls.  You cannot suppress their right to free speech simply because you do not like it, especially after they paid the money for naming rights and the rights to get their name and message out there.

As for the part of, “We got here through the bible and guns” let’s be honest, we did. This country was founded upon these basic principles. They are in the first 2 amendments. There is nothing wrong with the bible or guns. It’s the people who wield either for their own gain that is the issue.

Finally, as for other sports being neutral in all of these arenas, that is just wrong. They have sponsors who tell them to act a certain way. That isn’t neutrality, that’s smart business. Most sponsors in NASCAR probably hold similar views to the sanctioning body and that’s just another reason they use it as a platform. That’s smart business.

NASCAR has long been about sponsors and their message. NASCAR has long held religion and prayer at the front of their belief system. NASCAR is a privately owned company. In the end, they don’t have to do all that they do, they don’t have to support programs that help people of all types. They do it because it is part of their beliefs, part of their heritage. NASCAR fans are a special breed, I like to think we can all make determinations on our own.

If a driver supports a candidate you don’t like, do cheer for them. If a driver is sponsored by a company or group of people you don’t like, don’t follow them, don’t buy their product. It’s why I refuse to purchase Anheuser-Busch products and memorabilia, I no longer like or support Kevin Harvick. If a driver prays and you don’t want to, don’t pray for them. It’s our choice. I hate that we have become a society that must oppress anyone who is different from us. We have gone backwards. We forgot along the way that we have a choice to just ignore what we don’t like.

Thats why media has made an issue out of Texas. They are working to separate us just so they can get clicks and advertisers. They are playing to their sponsors too. We too can choose to ignore their message and not buy their product. We don’t have to play into their created drama.

Thats my overly opinionated view.

-Jonathan A. Gruenke-

Bristol Setup

Today the last trucks and crews will pull in from Texas, the Bulls of Texas will be unloaded and the first one is gonna need some love if she is to see track time again. Number 2, well… It’ll return to the chute for another go round. Then it is the gladiator’s turn to get loaded up.

ITS BRISTOL BABY!!!

Welcome to the world’s largest blender, the fastest half mile, Thunder Valley. Measuring in at a scant 0.533 mile with a progressive banking of 26 to 30 degrees, this can be one of the funnest tracks we visit all year. Last year saw a record speed of 14.6 seconds. Just think, you couldn’t even get 2 Bull Rides in! This is truly, “The Last Great Coliseum.” The challenge and fight is not lost on competitors either.

This week’s key to victory… The Chrome Horn. Austin has become more adapt at using it this year and has been encouraged to do so. Lord knows Slugger and Greg are going to make sure that bumper is shined up and reinforced. If she ain’t scuffed by the end, you didn’t race. Now, this isn’t the old 36 degree bottom dwellers track, this is a high groove, so if you get moved that wall is right there ready to take you in her arms.

Pit stops are a premium here, small boxes, tight quarters, split pit road and 15 second laps all add up to you going down 2 laps if you pit under green. If you get a penalty under caution and go to the back of the field, the leader is about 8 seconds behind you. Sorry, that’s all it took Lane Frost to ride a bull, you don’t want the leader riding your tail after 10 laps. Long story short, the driver better get it right coming in, the crew will be on point all night, they know what’s at stake.

Austin holds an average finish of 20th there in the trucks, an average 16th in Cup series, and boasts a nice 10th place average in Xfinity. This all adds up to a lifetime career average of 16th place, he’s got momentum on his side and is normally 8 places above his average this year. 16 – 8 = 8… So we can expect an 8th place finish….

But this is Bristol, it isn’t that easy. You can take 40 matchbox cars with numbers on them, put them in your blender on high (the noise is about the same) and take the lid off after 2 minutes. First car to fly out is about as good of a prediction for the winner as anyone can guess.

Honestly, it isn’t what it was when it was the straight 36 degree banking but man, I can only imagine it to be a lifetime experience. It is on my bucket list! So if you’re in the area, go listen to the loudest track in all of racing. You’ll thank me later fans.

See you from box!

“I took on more than I could handle, I bit off more than I could chew, I hit the wall.”

-The Wall by Willie Nelson-

I am a fan… Of a team…

This weekend someone said something to me and it got me thinking, it says something about the culture of fans and I was saddened. Back in the early 1980’s and previous the crews use to have their names on the car and the crews were in team pictures. It was a full blown team sport, not just a driver sport. Times change and fans change. Not always for the better.

So I want to take a moment to tell the fans, remember the team. Don’t just cheer for the driver, cheer for your hard working crew members. Cheer for the guy in the shop who cuts and welds tubing into a roll bar. Cheer for the guy that hammers the sheetmetal into the skin we see. Cheer for the mechanic that is tightening and torquing the last bolt on a cylinder head right now. They all are part of the team. Without the shop guys working late and getting up early, the car never reaches the hauler.

Cheer for the driver of the rig that isn’t home, who drives hours on end to make it to the track. When they are washing and shining their truck for the fan parade, cheer for them. When they roll out of the track on the way home after a weekend, cheer for them.

After Dale Earnhardt became a name, not just a driver… Fans changed. We forgot that we cheer on the jackman. We forgot to cheer on the tire changers and tire carriers and the fueler. We forgot that these hard working people, whose biggest fans are their families, need to know that we fans appreciate all they do. They jump off that wall in front of speeding cars and endanger themselves for us, the fans.

Last week when Austin got in the wreck, it wasn’t him fixing the car on pit road, it wasn’t Slugger Labbe, it was the crew who work in a cut throat world where every stop could be their last, where every inch lost or gained could mean their job tomorrow. With the downsizing of NASCAR there are more crew members than crews. They not only have to jump the wall they have to know the car and be better and faster than everyone else.

Instead of us shouting for faster stops, shout that they are as fast as they are, cheer them on, encourage them. Don’t be a fan of just the driver, be a fan of the team. They work and sacrifice so at the end of the week we can enjoy the sport. Their families go days on end without seeing them so we can see our driver put on a show. They fix mistakes that they have no control over and take the chewing when something goes wrong.

Every team has these people. Every team has someone tuning the engine, someone under the car, someone adjusting the seat and pedals, someone gluing lugnuts on rims. All these jobs are done for us, the fans, to cheer on our driver.

We know names like Chocolate Meyers and Will Lind because we use to cheer on the team, not just the driver. Fans, we are doing something wrong. We can still be #AD3nation but remember the nation, the crew members, the body shop guys, the engine shop guys, the guys who skin their knuckles and go home sore so we can enjoy watching out drivers in their cars do amazing things.

I originally started this account because I am a fan of not just drivers, but because I am a fan of crew chiefs. Guys like Slugger Labbe inspire me, they have so much knowledge and have to be able to do so many things. I find it amazing. However, a good crew chief is nothing without his team.

So this is for the guys in the shop working with Freddy, this is for the guys working with Frank and tuning the engine, this is for Clint and the guys working on the body to make the aero better, this is for Kevin and the guys under the car, this is for Adam and the guys working inside the rollcage making it all right for the driver. This is for SJ and the guys making sure the tires meet the asphalt. This is for Greg and Ryan and Slugger and Andrew studying every Technical aspect to make the car faster. This is for Andy, being the eyes and ears for Austin… This is for Sam, Brian, Ty, Josh, Allen, and Jason…

Thank you.

To all your families…

Thank you…

I am a fan of the 3 team, as a fan I realize you let Austin take the glory; but you are not forgotten…

I am a fan… of you too. I am a fan… of a team.

Texas Rollout

The Dow Racing hauler has been loaded and locked, as the diesel cranks up and teams head for the planes home you can still smell the fireworks and fuel and tires in the air. A weekend that started P4 on the practice board ended in a flash of light and the scream of tires. Sparks shown the contact with wall and track.

Qualifying 10th put Austin in a great position for a stellar night in the Lonestar state. Expectations and hopes were high and big, but sometimes that just means they crash that much harder.

The Xfinity race and the Cup race mirrored each other with conditions, firing off tight at the three-quarter exit mark. The 3 car fell through the field early on and stabilized around 14. During the first stop the car slid beyond the sign for Austin, this put the 3 car straight and the 44 had come around and angled into his stall. This locked Austin in his pit and pushed him back around twenty-third.

Martin Truex Jr. took the race lead and charged through the field, after green flag stops Austin was the fastest car on the track and stayed ahead of Truex by sheer determination and speed. Willing the 3 car through the turns and riding it down the straights Austin slowly gained, caution came out and circled the Dow Chevrolet back to the front. Stop after stop the team made up positions and time on the slow road for Austin.

Slugger stayed on top of adjustments and the crew executed all night long. This propelled Austin to restarts inside the Top 10 and helped him gain positions, improving under green as high as 4th. A caution with 60 to go saw Austin and Martin stay out while everyone else pitted. That’s when Lady Luck got hungry and went looking for some food…

Having only 2 green laps on his tires, Slugger thought they would be every bit as good as sticker tires since practice they fired off faster on scuff tires. Instead, just after green the 3 car dropped.

This is where it gets fuzzy, so I will describe it as I see it on video. Coming off the turn the 11 was below the 48, they came up behind Austin, the 11 underneath pressured the 3 up, as Austin held his line and came off the turn a lane higher than the 11 the 48 got into the back of the 3 pitching it sideways. The tires grabbed as Austin corrected and shot him into the outside wall. Careening off the wall through traffic the black and white Dow Energy & Water painted Chevrolet pitched violently towards the inside wall. The front end skidded along the inside wall facing the famed 3 into oncoming traffic. When the smoke cleared 13 cars had been involved including the 27 of Paul Menard and 31 of Ryan Newman, both RCR teammates.

Adding insult to injury as the team scrambled to make repairs, NASCAR held the 3 team on pit road for speeding multiple times. While this is usually a penalty of starting at the tail of the field, they claim to have warned the team and therefore penalized them further.

After pit road fabrication the lap times maintained in the 30 second range which was the average for most of the night. Austin piloted the 3 to a 19th place finish. After the fight and scramble to the Top 5, an ounce of luck put Austin just 3 positions above his career average finish in Fort Worth. While it isn’t the result I wanted and it sure as heck isn’t the finish the team wanted, we can move forward knowing that the car was better than the result.

Besides, in the end… The hero still gets the girl.

“When it’s time to go you know you’re welcome back, where the people pledge allegiance to the Hag.”

-Pledge Allegiance To The Hag by Eric Church-

Texas setup

Welcome to the Lonestar state! We head to Fort Worth, Texas and a mile and a half  double dogleg oval. Opened in 1996 this track has provided continued excitement year after year. 24 degree banking in the turns holds the cars on the track as they will break 200 mph this weekend.

Austin Dillon has a mixed history with this gem of the west. As a truck series driver, Austin holds an average 14th place finish, in the Xfinity series he has a 5th place average. Sprint Cup series he comes in a little better than 22nd overall. We know the last 2 years he has been concentrating on finishing laps and gaining experience more than going for a win, so this year should be quite the opposite of normal.

Hows the math work out? Well 22 + 14 + 5 = 41/3 = 14 place average for his career. Austin is averaging 9 spots above his series average and comes mighty close to that for his career averages. So 14 – 9 = 5. Am I projecting another Top 5 for Austin? Yes. He has been on a tear and if not for some equipment issues on pit road, he might have another Top 10 and may have been battling for the lead last week.

Austin has a fire burning in him and for the first time in the Cup series he has equipment equal to his talent. His engineers and mechanics and tuners and technicians are all united in a common goal to reach Victory Lane. On similar mile and a half tracks this year he holds an average 8th place finish, also he is averaging 16 positions above his career average. All this looks to land Austin near the front. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taking the pole here either.

Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize a real loss today. Country music legend, Merle Haggard passed away at the age of 79, on his birthday. I have fond memories of growing up, helping my father do taxidermy and listening to his music. From a young age I grew to love his music, as I got older I drank to his music, and today I listen to it as I drive my daily errands. Taking a moment to reflect, I want to share a piece that spoke to me the first time I heard it…

 

“I’m fortysome years old and I ain’t got no place to go when it’s over; so I hide my age and make the stage and try to kick the footlights out again…” 

-Footlights by Merle Haggard-

 

I’ll see you from the box.

-CCC

Martinsville Rollout

The last Dow Racing Chevrolet rolls off the truck, 2 more ready for Texas sit waiting. A weekend that started out with times that held the 3 car in the bottom of the field after practice a qualifying, turned out pretty nice. With some help from teammates Austin salvaged a 4th place finish.

By now we have all heard the audio of Austin berating his teammates, that’s not how it really is. Freddy & the boys in the 3 & 27 shop built cars so close they raced and battled each other all day. Truth be known, if it weren’t for Paul the 3 car would’ve been laps down. After miserable practice and qualifying Slugger and the team put the 27 setup in the 3. That’s what made the day.

Pit road continues to be tricky for the team, but through no fault of any of the crew members. Early in the race Austin was asking what he could do during stops to make life easier for the jack man, Sam Abney. The next stop, while pitting the left side of the car, the car came down off the jack. Slugger determined that the clutch had bled out causing the car to roll forward. This tilted the jack, bent both the jack and the jack post. They had to grab a back up jack which would take an extra pump or two all day. Slugger explained this to Austin, explained there was nothing that Sam had done wrong and that the rest of the day they would likely lose one or two spots all day. The bent jack post made it hard to see and hard to center on. The remaining pit stops they lost 2 spots, then one spot, then they gained one back. The entire team, Austin included, continues to get better with each race. I wouldn’t have it an other way. A team that grows together, loses together, learns together, eventually wins together.

Near the end of the race Austin charged hard, after being stuck in 12th the majority of the race, the 3 car cut and pushed and battled forward up to 5th on the final restart. Following alliance member, A.J. Allmendinger, through the hole on the inside lane up to 3rd. With a mere 3 laps left Austin was passed by Kyle Larson who had two fresh tires.

After the race the entire team was happy and excited on the radio. A career day in the books, a top 5, seems to heal all wounds. Let’s face it, this is Martinsville. You can leave your feelings in the hauler and they’ll still get hurt. On the way out of the track, you can pick them up, shake them off and walk away with your head high. Cause we all know, in the end… The hero still gets the girl.