Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Charger Daytona Looking For A Place To Run

2013 Dodge Charger Daytona
Dodge unveiled a new “Daytona” version of  its 2013 Charger at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, resurrecting memories of the famous winged Dodge Charger model from 1969.

Unfortunately, the 2013 version of the Daytona does not have a wing – barely a spoiler – nor is the "hemi" engine really a hemi.  Worse yet, it won’t be seeing any action on the high banks of Daytona or Talladega – or any other race track for that matter, a result of Chrysler’s decision not to compete in NASCAR next year.

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The original Daytona (and its corporate cousin, the Plymouth Superbird) featured a high wing on the rear deck and a pointed nose cone.  It was created by Chrysler in an attempt to make the Charger more competitive on NASCAR’s super speedways.  Only 503 were built, just enough to meet NASCAR’s minimum production requirements.  Only 2,500 of the new Daytona will be built next year.

The original Charger Daytona won its first race, ironically at Talladega, although an asterisk is necessary.  It was the first race run at the Alabama track and Richard Petty led a driver boycott over concerns about tire durability and safety.  Richard Brickhouse drove a Daytona prepared by Ray Nichels to victory, the first of many to record their first victory at Talladega.  It was also Brickhouse’s only Cup victory.

Ford countered with a drooped nose version of its Torino called, the Talladega  which won the following year at Daytona.  After just two seasons, however, NASCAR outlawed both cars.

Although there were subsequent Dodge Charger Daytona models (as recently as 2009) and even a model called simply the Dodge Daytona (a long way from the Charger), none featured the famous the wing and none came close to matching the cool factor of the original model.   

There is hope, however, that this Daytona could return to the high banks.  While Brad Keselowski will be driving a Ford next season, ther Dodge Charger Daytona may yet return to NASCAR’s victory lane.

"I surely hope so," said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Chrysler motorsports and Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology brand.  "We're not shutting the door on this, put it that way.  We'll let the history books tell us that someday."

Monday, November 12, 2012

NASCAR Turns a Blind Eye

Gordon gets his revenge -- and then some
NASCAR’s decision to all but ignore Jeff Gordon for purposely wrecking Clint Bowyer should be a surprise to no one.  If there is anything consistent about NASCAR rule enforcement, it’s that it’s inconsistent. 

Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 championship points for “actions detrimental to stock car racing.”  Oh yeah, he’s on probation for the next two weeks(!) and car owner Rick Hendrick loses 25 owner points.  That’s a far cry from the benching Kyle Busch sustained a year ago following a truck race at Texas when he wrecked Ron Hornaday, Jr.  

Worse yet, NASCAR shares in the blame for what happened.  Events were set in motion when Bowyer nudged Gordon.  Gordon nudged Bowyer back to even it up.  Only Gordon got too high on the track.  NASCAR seemed not to notice Gordon bouncing off the wall, nor the parts spewing out behind the 24 car.  The failure by NASCAR to display a caution flag only added to Gordon’s frustration as he waited for Bowyer, then purposely wrecked him, collecting Joey Logano and Aric Almirola in the process and nearly Brad Keselowski. 

Sorry about that, Gordon tweeted to the others.  

Then things went from bad to worse.  And I’m not talking about the WWF exhibition going on back in the garage area.  I’m talking about Jeff Burton spinning Danica Patrick.  That one has yet to be explained.  First Patrick sat motionless on the track.  No caution.  Then she pulled down across the track.  No caution.  Then there was the oil slick that trailed behind her car for everyone to see.  Well everyone except NASCAR.  It was Watkins Glen all over again.

“When she got up in there, at the time she came all the way around and she was out of harm's way,” explained Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition.  “We didn't see any fluid or anything, she rode around on the apron, and when she pulled up on the racetrack, there was smoke, it looked like tire smoke.   It's easy to look back on it obviously and wish that you did something different, but at the time it didn't appear like there was any fluid that was coming out of the car.”

The drivers weren’t buying it.  Again it was a question of consistency.  How can NASCAR display a yellow flag for nonexistent debris, they wondered, but ignore cars bouncing off the walls.

“You can't throw the caution flag as fast as you can throw it one time and then just let everybody run through a whole straightaway full of oil,” said race winner Kevin Harvick.  “Those are the guys that are going to have to look themselves in the mirror, the guy who's calling the races, and decide if they're doing a good job.  There was more oil than there was asphalt, I can guarantee you that, and it was very visible.”

Denny Hamlin, who finished second, had perhaps the best line.

“The 29 (Harvick) almost wrecked coming to the line,” he said.  “We almost wrecked, too.  There was a lot of stuff on the racetrack.  That's why that wreck happened on the front stretch — there was oil all over it.

“Ray Charles could see that.  It was just a judgment call, I guess.”

NASCAR fans deserve better

Monday, November 5, 2012

Psych! Keselowski has Johnson’s Number

Jimmie Johnson may be seven points ahead with two races to go in the chase for the NASCAR championship, but Brad Keselowski is clearly in the head of the five-time champion.

When it comes to gamesmanship, Keselowski has held a lead over Johnson ever since Chicago, the first Chase race.  Along with crew chief Paul Wolfe, they have refused to be intimidated by No. 48 team – or anyone else for that matter.  

At Chicagoland, Keselowski drifted up the track while exiting the pits for the last time, startling Johnson, who had been leading the race, and forcing him to lift.  Johnson complained that Keselowski had come up the track too fast, but NASCAR didn’t see it that way and Keselowski went on to the win.

Sunday night in Texas, Johnson was whining again, claiming Keselowski had jumped a couple of late restarts.   On one, Keselowski slid up the track, banging against Johnson and holding on to the lead.  When the pair pulled side-by-side for the final restart, Johnson let Keselowski know what he thought of the move.  

"I pointed that I wanted him to use his head,” Johnson said. “It just doesn't need to come down to that. We walked right up to the line and went to the edge. It's the first time we raced each other to that level.”

Clearly, Keselowski had gotten in Johnson’s head.  

“I was a little shocked by the commitment into turn one,” Johnson said.  “I’ve joked before about driving in so far that I see Elvis.  We went past Elvis, and I didn’t know who was coming next.  I knew he was serious about the race.  That took it to a new level.”

For his part, Keselowski also complained about Johnson leading at the start/finish on the final restart, but held his tongue when he faced the press afterwards.  Obviously NASCAR isn’t about to get in the way of the best racing the series has seen this year.  

Keselowski refused to apologize for going hard at Johnson in the final laps. Even Keselowski’s appearance in Victory Circle afterward to congratulate Johnson startled the winner.  

"I raced hard," Keselowski said. "We both came back around, so there's something to be said for that. It was a good fight, just a dogfight. I fought as hard as I could.

"I came up a little bit short, but I thought I had it until that last restart. Those restarts are like rock-paper-scissors. You are going to lose eventually. I won two out of three."

Looking ahead, it would appear Johnson has the advantage at the next race, Phoenix.  He has four wins at the track and a fifth place average finish.  Keselowski’s average finish is 22nd. But most of those finishes were on the old Phoenix configuration.  In the spring race they finished fourth and fifth.

Keselowski couldn’t resist taking one last crack at throwing Johnson off.

“I feel like Phoenix is a whole different animal,” he said.  “They repaved last year, so it's not the same track. So I don't feel like a notebook there is that significant.  I felt like we may have been a little better in the fall than he was.”

Oh, by the way, the fall race is coming up.