Halftime, A triangle?, and the JJ Benefit Tour

So, here we are kicking off the second half of the NASCAR regular season, and the month of June.  Once again, it is time for the tricky triangle of Pocono Raceway.  Pocono is a three turn, 2.5 mile flat track in the middle of the beautiful Poconos of Pennsylvania.  Racing aside, this track always takes the best pictures with the mountains surrounding the area.  And as of late, the racing has been more exciting as well.  Don’t tell the France family, but I actually think NASCAR got it right when they shortened the events from 500 to 400 miles a few years ago…Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Richard, you constantly complain that the races are too short, and they are taking exciting laps away from the fans, and ruining the overall product by making the races a 2.5-3 hour affair instead of the all-day marathons they used to be.”  And, you are correct.  That is me every week.  Except here.  And there is a very complex and good reason for that.

Over the years, the racing here has been boring at best, and nap inducing at its worst.  If you want to sleep with a race in the background, this track almost always worked.  I can think of many exciting moments that have happened here, but they are just moments, in a four hour afternoon.  I think back to this exciting finish.  I think to the race where this happened.  and I think of some very hard crashes, some career ending.  But for all that, the track is wide enough for side-by-side-by-side racing, but it almost never happens for long.  The better cars with the best set-ups, and best pit strategy pull away, and dominate these events.  For instance, in that 1995 race where Jeff missed the shift, Those were the most competitive five laps of the entire race, and if not for that restart, no one had anything for the 24.

Again, that is not to say, that we can’t have a barn burner today, but history is not on our side.  That being said, I love to pull for the underdog, so I will go in, beverage in hand to undertake this endeavor with narrowed eyes, and the intensity of a champion…  Or I will just watch the race on what looks like it is shaping up to be a soggy Sunday afternoon here in Indiana.  So here is some stuff to know for today.

31 drivers have found their way to Pocono’s victory lane in NASCAR’S top series.  Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with six wins here.  Oddly enough, he also leads all active drivers with six runner-up finishes as well.  Jeff leads all active drivers in top-fives (19), and top-tens (29).  So naturally, he does NOT lead all active drivers in average finish.  Jimmie Johnson holds that distinction with an 8.83. Six drivers have won consecutive races here.  Most recently, it was Denny Hamlin who pulled the season sweep in his rookie year of 2006.  Hamlin also leads all drivers with a 6.5 average start here.  BTW, Hamlin is your polesitter.  Joe Nemecheck leads all active drivers in trips to Pocono without taking the trophy home with 38 races here.  The stat becomes very interesting when you see that the next two are tied at 28.  Neither Dale Earnhardt Jr., or Matt Kenseth have won here.  That may be about to change today…(a little foreshadowing if you will)

15 of the previous 72 Cup races here have been won from the pole.  (20.8%)  24 have been won from the front row.  (33.3%)  That is good news for Hamlin and Kurt Busch.  50 have been won from a top-ten starting position.  Once again, the good cars start up front, and pull away.  Only five times has a winner started outside the top-20, and found his way to the winner’s circle.  So naturally, I am going to pick a driver who is starting in the 26th position.  He has historically struggled here, but I am going with Matt Kenseth to pick up his first career Pocono win.  As far as a dark horse goes, how about Jamie McMurray.  He has been running a lot better lately.  He has never been particularly strong here, but this season just seems to be shining on him.  He won the All-Star race a few weeks back, and ran 5th in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend.  A 13th place finish last week isn’t indicative of where he was running in the late stages.  This team is turning the corner to make a run at the Chase this season.  With the new format, some wily pit strategy late in one of these races can get him a victory and ensure his post-season berth.

Speaking of ensuring his post-season berth, how about that Jimmie Johnson?  It wasn’t three full weeks ago, we were all wondering what was wrong with six-time.  “Oh Lawdy, could the team turn it around in time for the chase?”  Now, I literally heard someone last night complain that he is winning everything.  It has just been two races people!  And both of them were at tracks he has dominated over his career.  I have to laugh.  There is definitely a bi-polar reaction to the most successful driver in this generation of NASCAR racing.

The MRN broadcast begins at Noon.  Tune into 100.3 FM if you live in the Central Indiana area, or visit www.korncountry.com to listen live to the Pennsylvania 400.  Join my Facebook group to talk racing at For The Love Of Racing.

Hey Little Liar

liar (1)You lie on a daily basis. They aren’t necessarily big lies . . . but we all drop little lies here and there. What lie do you tell the most often? Here are eight of the most popular answers
1. “My phone was on silent so I didn’t know you called.”
2. “Sorry, I don’t have any change on me.”
3. “I don’t care what people think of me.”
4. Whatever your height is . . . adding at least an inch.
5. “I’m fine” . . . whether you’re happy, sad, or anything in between.
6. “I’m on the way.”
7. “This meal was delicious.”
8. “I’ll let you know if I can make it . . . I think I might already have something that night.”

Why ‘Platinum’ Rules…

Miranda Lambert’s new album is finally here and we couldn’t be more excited!

Here are a few reasons why Platinum is the coolest:

- “Girls” is an empowering anthem for women, which is always welcome. “Bathroom Sink” is another one, and it’s even better.

A wistful, nostalgic song called “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” that actually makes us feel wistful and nostalgic

 - It has a song actually titled “Old Sh*t”

 - Miranda holds her own with Carrie Underwood in the Thelma & Louise saga “Somethin’ Bad.”

 - How she says she’s married to a man who’s married to attention. Surely she’s not talking about Blake.

 - Platinum has 16 tracks. That’s like an album and a half!

See the full article on Country Weekly.com!

Memorial Day Traditions

It’s finally here.  One of my top-five favorite days of the year is finally here, and it looks like the forecasts are going to be great.  The focus today is on 1100 miles of great racing.  It’s the 98th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, and then we cap it off with 600 miles from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  All the pre-race hype is almost complete, and it’s time to put up or shut up for 75 drivers and 76 teams.  Mr. Busch’s wild ride will have him jet-setting from Indy to Charlotte this afternoon at what he can call his half-time break.  When it’s all said and done, whether you are waiting for the milk, or the Coca-Cola, today is about racing, on a weekend that is all about remembering those who came before us, and paved the roads for our future.  So, pop-a-top, raise your glass, or whatever it takes as we salute our armed forces, and settle in for 1100 miles of racing.  All of it, can be heard on your official Sprint Cup/Indy 500 Station, KORN Country 100.3.

Oh, and by the way, picking Tony Kanaan to win back to back 500s, with Takuma Sato as my dark horse.  In the evening event, going with Matt Kenseth, and after yesterday’s exciting Nationwide race, Kyle Larson looks to pick up his first Cup win in a race that has given us so many first-time winners.  Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995), Matt Kenseth (2000), and Casey Mears (2006).  Larson will be my longshot pick while we can still call him that.  I seriously believe this kid will be amazing very soon.

An All-Star Kind Of Night

What a night of racing last night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway!  40 nail biting laps to determine who made the All-Star race.  And to top it, the fan vote went to a driver who has went out of his way to be a fan favorite when they get interviewed every week.  Wait, what’s that?  Oh I was watching a past All-Star Race.  Oh well.  The 2014 edition of The Sprint Showdown lacked any real drama, as the top-two ran off and hid in both segments.  Going into the race, Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger were favorites to race Saturday night.  The only real surprise was how no one else was really even close.  But for an early race spin, Marcos Ambrose showed enough strength to keep it close, but Bowyer and Allmendinger had the field covered.

However the fan vote was a different story.  Don’t get me wrong, Josh Wise is a good race car driver.  You don’t make it to the top without skill, talent, and someone’s money.  But to say he is more popular than Danica, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ambrose, Casey Mears and even Paul Menard who actually won a Brickyard 400, is laughable at best.  I dare the Fox Cameras to show me anyone with a Josh Wise shirt on tonight.  But this is what we have.  I wish the boy luck as I have a bet with the fiancee.  She says he won’t make it three laps, I say he’ll make it three segments…maybe not on the lead lap, but he will be running at the end of segment three.  Surely that’s worth a few dogecoins.  (What is wrong with people?)

The All-Star Race was at its best when you had guys racing in.  I have never been a fan of the Fan Vote.  Also, the segments in these races are nothing more than glorified competition cautions, which gimmick the strategy so much that everyone almost always has to do the same thing on pit road.  A true All-Star race would feature 100 laps, or whatever the total distance you want is, where there are no extended cautions,  no mid-race breaks, no re-starting in a backup car, no limits on what the teams can do on pit stops, but no waiting around for them.  Just like an actual race.  Make it long enough where they will have to pit at least once, but probably twice.  No guaranteed cautions, just let the flag fly when needed.  If you have a veteran running on fumes at the end of one of these, racing a young gun with four new tires and a two second gap with ten to go, give me some popcorn and keep quiet.

Now for the fun part of this story.  I am logging off all social media once this is posted.  There is a big event at the Salem Speedway in Salem Indiana.  It’s the Casey’s General Store Spring Speed Fest.  As track announcer, I will be seeing some of the best short track racing anywhere.  As a result, I will be watching the All-Star race sometime tomorrow.  I also will be tracking pole day qualifying for the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing”.  It may be Sunday night before I watch the truck race from Friday.  I’m going for the upset in the All-Star race.  There is this driver who has shown some flashes of potential success in his career.  Although he hasn’t won a race since sometime last year, I just think he has what it takes to win in NASCAR’s biggest night.  I pick the guy trying to win this race for the third consecutive time; Jimmie Johnson.  Let me know who you are picking by joining our FB group.  For The Love Of Racing.  As always, tune into your official Sprint Cup Station, www.korncountry.com