Pocono II Setup

Welcome back to the Tricky Triangle, fresh off a solid 9th place finish in Indy which saw Austin Dillon have the second fastest car most of the day. This track will drive much the same, it’s all about making the straights long, rotating quickly through the corner and getting back to the throttle first. We might just see a repeat or better result than last week.

So, what happened last time? Well, we don’t talk about last time. It… Was… Ugly. Parts failures hurt, I’m sure Austin can tell you about their physical affects. They are even worse when you know they are coming. So we are gonna leave it at that and move forward.

Keys to victory this week, as I said before, rotate the center and be the first back to the throttle. This is a prime track for short pitting, you can pit and get back out without losing a lap as long as you’re less than 10 seconds behind. If you can be the first on tires for 3 or 4 laps you can make up a lot of ground very quickly. Watch for strategy to play heavily this weekend.

Austin currently holds an average of 21st in Cup here and 5th in trucks, this gives us a 13th place finish over his career. He currently holds an average of 4 places above his career average over this season which puts him in 9th place, by my math and algorithm. Is it a reasonable expectation?

Absolutely. The guys in Department #327 at RCR have put out some amazing cars. With Pocono running so similar to Indianapolis it seems fitting that his projected finish actually matches last week’s live finish. With just 6 races to go before the Chase it is conceivable that the team will value a great points day first and chase a win if and when the opportunity presents itself.

Frank… I know…  you guys never go to the track thinking you aren’t going to win, I’m just saying the team will protect a good points day to ensure a Chase birth this year. Granted, it only takes one win to get in, but with the points as they are, I am sure the 3 team will make the Chase, just want a little more cushion.

Good luck this weekend, stay safe, and I’ll see you in the box.

Overly Opinionated: Attend This

Every year after the Brickyard it seems fans want to talk about attendance, or lack there of, more than usual. Is NASCAR worried about attendance? Should they be? Why are fans who don’t attend events so worried about attendance? Why after the Brickyard do we do this year after year?

Lets just start with the Brickyard, the famed, the historic, the legendary Inidanapolis Motor Speedway. I’m going to be honest with you, it’s gonna be a kick in the jewels but deal with it, the Brickyard IS NOT a crown jewel event. It is not historic for stock cars, it is not famed for stock cars, it is not legendary for stock cars. It is all those things for OPEN WHEEL racing, but not for full fender stock cars. True race enthusiasts value a win here, drivers and owners and mechanics and crew chiefs value the wins here because it puts them alongside the greats in Motorsports. Let us remember, before 1994 stock cars didn’t race here. Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson… Never ran Indy and never won Indy.

The racing at Indy is not spectacular, for open wheel or for stock cars. This weekend if you listened to competitor’s radio during the Xfinity race, you heard one say, “Man this is a boring race.” His crew chief replied, “You should try watching it.” If those in the competition don’t find it exciting, neither will the fans. This is nothing against the driver and crew chief, it was an unimpressive, lackluster, boring race. I love racing, of all types! I eat, breathe, sleep, smell, think, study racing… and I thought both races this weekend were tedious and boring to watch.

So what we have is a recipe for disaster. NASCAR and the media overhype this race as some “Historic Crown Jewel” and the racing is bad. It’s a giant farce and lie. This isn’t the Daytona 500, this isn’t the Southern 500, this isn’t the 600. It just isn’t, so quit acting like it is. NASCAR likes the idea that it can fill the 400,000 seats at Indy but it never has and never will. That’s a fact.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s NASCAR was at its peak, it could seat 100,000 or 200,000 fans anywhere, so they left the short tracks like North Wilkesboro, they left the historic circuits like Rockingham, they turned their back on Myrtle Beach and they forgot their tried and true, diehard race fans. When the bubble popped with the 2008 recession and attendance hit record lows NASCAR dug in to their future model and failed to realize that those days, were over. Even the NFL  has problems selling out big stadiums to capacity of 100,000. Simply put, you aren’t going to sell out a track anymore.

NASCAR goes to venues with lots of seating, but in reality they need to drop back to the smaller venues where racing thrives, where the sport cut its teeth, where 30,000 fans pack the seats and it is a hard ticket to get. If NASCAR was concerned about attendance, that’s what it would have to do. It would also stretch the series throughout the Midwest and west, reducing the number of opportunities to go to a race in certain areas thereby creating a new balance in supply and demand. Reduce the supply, increase the demand. That or they could reduce the number of races. I hate the thought, but it is another option.

Yet we have to ask, is NASCAR concerned about attendance? Really? I doubt it. The tracks are concerned about attendance, but NASCAR, they aren’t. NASCAR makes its money on the TV deals and merchandising. NASCAR isn’t worried about attendance, if it was the Indy race would be cancelled and the date would move to Road America. Indy pulled in a “guesstimate” of 45,000 fans for the Sprint Cup Series race. Road America pulls in 35,000 to 50,000 fans every year for the Xfinity series. Seems to me, that’s a no brainier, yet NASCAR continues to stack the deck against the independent tracks, because they aren’t getting paid the big money from them like they are from the big 2 race track conglomerates, SMI and ISC. Since those two companies own 80% of the NASCAR tracks they are the ones worried about attendance and they aren’t worried because they own enough properties that they come out on top regardless. So no, NASCAR doesn’t care about attendance and they don’t need to be, they are the largest form of Motorsports in the United States of America for a reason.

Should fans be worried about attendance, really? Trust me, NASCAR isn’t going to die, Motorsports aren’t gonna die, it’s dwindling but there will be a resurgence, baseball and football and hockey and soccer have seen this same trend again and again. So just wait awhile. Why complain about attendance if you aren’t at the race? If you’re afraid a race may fail that you really like, go! Then make sure you bring a friend! Bring a kid or three. Most tickets aren’t outrageous. If you want outrageous ticket prices, try to get a ticket to a Packer game in the regular season or post season at Lambeau Field. NASCAR doesn’t have $400 or $500 nose bleed tickets. So quit the crying, quit the worrying and go enjoy the race.

If you can’t get to the race, watch it on TV. Don’t have cable, go to a bar and watch it or go to a friend’s house and watch it. Then make sure you let the advertisers and NASCAR know you watched it, let the broadcast affiliate know you’d watch it if they had it on regular TV. NASCAR cares about the TV viewer, it’s the new “butts in seats” philosophy. That’s where they make their money.

In the end, we don’t need to worry about attendance, as fans, that’s not our job. Our job is to enjoy the race in person, on the radio, on TV, and on social media. If the Brickyard fails it will be because that form of racing is no longer in demand. NASCAR has to look at who they want their core audience to be. If NASCAR wants younger viewers, you will see more road racing. If NASCAR is happy with the middle aged bracket, you will see more of the same.

Sometimes, change is good, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we just can’t control anything other than what we do, so own up, go to a race, cheer on your team. That’s your job fans, quit watching the seats and cheer on the Richard Childress Racing teams, they have excellent drivers and crew chiefs and spotters and pit crews and mechanics and engineers and they have great personalities and put on a hell of a show, but it isn’t in the seats.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the box.

Indy Setup

Loudon was a good race, finished 13th and had fought from deep in the field to near the front. A tight handling car relegated Austin to a 13th place position. As always, our pit crew was on it! Those guys kicked ass every stop and made some excellent adjustments under the guidance of Slugger Labbe. It was a whole team effort.

Onto Indianapolis! A true 4 turn oval, that’s kind of square. This is a track that you can make up ground with momentum. Austin has really developed his rhythm this year and often makes good headway when he can cruise and drive to the sound of the motor. He has even talked about making engine sounds in the cockpit when driving, this can actually help with timing and “hitting your marks.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.500 mile track with 9.2 degree banking in the turns and 0 banking on the straights. Flat track to flat track. Could this be the week? Austin will have to overcome the fact that Jeff Gordon is back in town. This looks to be a great race!

So where do I see Austin finishing? In the Cup series he holds just an average of 21st in 3 starts, in Xfinity he holds a 9th place average. All together his career average is 15th, with a 4 place momentum modifier I see Austin placing 11th. If Frank has the motor tuned up and Greg has the car rolling off right, we could Austin up front most of the day.

Good luck out there and I’ll see you in the box.

New Hampshire Setup

Welcome to Loudon, New Hampshire! After last week’s disappointing fuel mileage finish we come to one of Austin’s better tracks! It is certainly a welcome change, while the 3 team is good at mile and a half “downforce” tracks, it’s good to come to something different, a track that really tests drivers.

Kentucky wasn’t a bad race, the 3 team ran near the front all night and showed speed, strength, and great stops. The problem was, we were on the wrong side of the fuel mileage game. Fuel mileage races can be exciting but also can leave you scratching your head and asking, “What happened?” That’s exactly what happened to Austin. 16th isn’t bad, but when you run top 5 or top 10 all night, it feels disappointing.

So we come to Loudon. Home of Clint Bowyer’s first win in the RCR 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet Impala. Clint dominated that race, lead almost every lap, and all 43 cars were running at the finish that day. I bring this up because RCR has another driver in a black and white car looking for his first win. Could this weekend be it?

Austin averages a 21st starting position and an average just above 14th. It’s one of very few tracks where he normally finishes better than he starts. Averaging 6th place in trucks and 9th place in Xfinity, this is one of Austin’s better tracks. He holds a lifetime average of about 10th, with a momentum modifier of +4 positions over his career average, we should see Austin finish around 6th.

A quick overview of the track, it’s just over a mile, variable banking in the turns from 2-7 degrees and 1 degree banking on the straights. The surface is asphalt & granite, a unique combination which will surely challenge S.J. Golembeski with tire setup. Slugger & Greg will have to make sure the 3 car is turning pretty through the corners for Austin. Austin is a dirt track racer and use to getting through some flat turns, so this track should play to his strengths.

Finally, with Dale Jr. sitting out due to concussion symptoms, please wish him well, say a prayer if you’re willing to do that. It’s a reminder that this is a sport, a dangerous sport, one that is played with lives, not just high horsepower vehicles. As our drivers go out each weekend, they risk their lives for our entertainment. Every time that Jason, Justin, Ty, Sam, Brian, and Josh jump over that wall to service the car, they put themselves in harms way, for we fans. Make sure you thank these gentlemen for all that they do, so we can enjoy the race. It’s amazing we don’t have more incidents in racing, but let us be thankful for that also.

Enjoy the race, I’ll see you in the box.

Kentucky Setup

Welcome to the land of bluegrass, bourbon, fried chicken, and HORSEPOWER! Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining…

Austin had a good run in Daytona, that bodes very well for him this week. He is a momentum driver and on a newly repaved, reconstructed track with one groove, it will race like a dirt track that he is so good on. Finishing 3 spots higher than my projection, Austin avoided incident over the 4th of July weekend to solidify his position within the Chase standings. While he is well above the cut line, a win would guarantee a Chase berth for him.

Kentucky, is really hard to project. In trucks and Xfinity he averages very high finishes, in Cup… 22nd. However, we are gonna bag up all those stats, tie them off and throw them away. This isn’t the old track and it sure as hell ain’t Churchill Downs. This course is gonna test everyone.

Kentucky Speedway is now a 1.5 mile trioval, it has 17 degree banking in turns 1 & 2 a 1,600 foot run down the 4 degree banked backstretch which is 57 feet wide, then onto the 14 degree banks of 3 & 4 and finally through the 8-10 degree progressive banked dogleg. This track will be forever changing through the race.

The star this week will be the car chief and the guys changing out parts on the car during practice. There will be a lot of adjustments if they do not nail the setup.

Finally, I project Austin to finish 7th this weekend. His career average here is 11th even though his Cup average is a dismal 22nd, the Xfinity and truck series don’t lie, he knows how to get around this joint, the team is trending upward, Austin holds an average 4 places better than his Cup average on the year. That 4 point modifier doesn’t tell the story of the team, they have run so much better. The crew have been gaining positions on pit road and Slugger has been on top of the adjustments.

So let’s hope that Blue Moon over Kentucky can shine it’s ever loving light on 3.

Good luck, enjoy the race, I’ll see y’all in the box!

Daytona Summer Setup

Welcome back fans! We are home again in the heart of NASCAR. Daytona under the lights is here! 400 miles of bumper to bumper fun! Last time we were here Austin exceeded my projection by 3 positions, finishing 9th. At Talladega Austin finished 3rd. So, we are gonna have a great week, right?

Absolutely. With a current career average of 14th at Daytona and momentum of 4 positions above his Cup average, we should be looking to finish 10th. Now, we can all agree that a tenth at Daytona is pretty good, however…

While projecting 10th I believe Austin will run top 5 all day, and I really do believe we will see the 3 in Victory Lane. Why? He has the most experience here, in Xfinity me Cup he has very high averages, truck series average of 23rd holds it down. Austin may not be Dale Sr. and we don’t need him to be, this guy is good on the super speedways. Remember Talladega and the team’s no quit attitude? Remember the last 3 laps where he improved his position by 15 positions?

Austin, wins this. That’s my money. Projection for record is 10th but I am positive that Greg Osbourne, Slugger Labbe, Frank Mathalia, and the entire 3 team comes to Daytona expecting to see Victory Lane. The cars are great, the motors are great, the crew is great, and the driver… 2nd best overall average finish in Xfinity, first overall in average finish in Cup (based upon active drivers since 1959).

Ladies, Gentlemen, Austin, Whitney…. Everybody reading this…. This is our weekend! This is our house! There’s a man that owned this track that drove the 3 and Austin drives the 3 and statistically owns this track.

THIS IS DAYTONA!