[NASCAR] Speed Addicts

Speed Addicts: And Then There Was One

– Steve Price, the “Frozen Speed Addict”
For Inside Pulse Sports

Hello, my peeps, and welcome to the column that keeps on delivering the goods. I am your Host with the Most, back for another exciting edition of Speed Addicts here at Inside Pulse Sports! Hope everyone enjoyed the NHL column on Saturday, a few minor burps aside, and I hope you’ll enjoy today’s short (but sweet) edition of the ‘Addicts. So, let’s hit that shit, Homer!

Track Profile: California Speedway
Date Opened: June 20th, 1997
Location: Fontana, California (40 Miles East of Los Angeles)
Inaugural Nextel Cup Race: California 500 (June 22nd, 1997 – Won by Jeff Gordon)
Inaugural Nextel Cup Pole: Joe Nemechek
Nextel Cup Race Record: 155.012 MPH (June 22nd, 1997 – Jeff Gordon)
Fastest Qualifying Time: 187.432 MPH (Ryan Newman – 2002)

Track Configuration
Track Length: 2.0 Miles
Track Shape: D-Oval
Front Stretch: 11 Degree Banking / 3,100 Feet Long
Back Straightaway: 3 Degree Banking / 2,500 Feet Long
Banking/Turns: 14 Degrees
Track Composition: Asphalt track surface and pit lanes
Pit Road: 2,200 Feet Long w/ 44 Pit Spaces
Closely Resembles: Michigan International Speedway

Track History
California Speedway, owned today by the International Speedway Corporation, was first announced on April 20th, 1994 by Penske Motorsports and Kaiser Ventures. The track itself would first have test runs completed in January of 1997, and would see its official opening ceremony take place just days before the California 500 on June 22nd, 1997. The race, which to date is the fastest race ever held at California, was won by Jeff Gordon, beginning a trend of dominance for Gordon and his teammate Jimmie Johnson, who together have combined to win four of the nine races ever held here. Eight drivers have gone to victory lane at California, including Jeff Gordon (3), Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin. The track races much like its sister track, Michigan International Speedway, and is one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.

Race #25 of 36: California
Date: Sunday, September 4th, 2005 from Fontana, California
Time: 7:00 PM on NBC
Pole Sitter: Carl Edwards (185.061 MPH)
Distance: 500 Miles (250 Laps – 2.0 Mile Track)
2004 Winner: Elliott Sadler (Race Ran 09/05/04)
Busch Race Winner: Carl Edwards

I know most of you would like a more insightful look into the California race, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t want to watch the race last night. I’m very, very bitter over the loss of Darlington and the Mountain Dew Southern 500, for reasons we’ve covered here before. California is not a fun race to watch; it’s too wide, racing is single file, and it takes forever to finish the thing. Darlington is infinitely more fun to watch, and now it’s on the verge of being taken away. Therefore, I will not dignify NASCAR’s higher ups by reviewing this race any more than I have, or will. Here’s the rundown, and my apologies to anyone that wants anything more.

Official Race Results – California
01. #5 Kyle Busch – Kellogg’s Chevrolet
02. #16 Greg Biffle – National Guard/Charter Communications Ford
03. #25 Brian Vickers – GMAC/ditech.com Chevrolet
04. #99 Carl Edwards – Office Depot Ford
05. #20 Tony Stewart – The Home Depot Chevrolet
06. #9 Kasey Kahne – Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
07. #17 Matt Kenseth – DeWalt Power Tools Ford
08. #42 Jamie McMurray – Home123 Corp. Dodge
09. #21 Ricky Rudd – Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford
10. #01 Joe Nemechek – U.S. Army Chevrolet

11. #6 Mark Martin – Viagra Ford
12. #97 Kurt Busch – Smirnoff Ice Ford
13. #15 Michael Waltrip – NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
14. #29 Kevin Harvick – GM Goodwrench Chevrolet
15. #2 Rusty Wallace – Miller Lite Dodge
16. #48 Jimmie Johnson – Lowe’s Chevrolet
17. #38 Elliott Sadler – M&M’s Ford
18. #12 Ryan Newman – ALLTEL/Sony HDTV Dodge
19. #40 Sterling Marlin – Coors Light Dodge
20. #18 Bobby Labonte – AsthmaControl.com Chevrolet

21. #24 Jeff Gordon – DuPont Chevrolet
22. #07 Dave Blaney – Happy Birthday Jack Chevrolet
23. #32 Bobby Hamilton Jr. – Tide Chevrolet
24. #88 Dale Jarrett – UPS Ford
25. #43 Jeff Green – Wheaties Dodge
26. #19 Jeremy Mayfield – Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
27. #0 Mike Bliss – NetZero Best Buy Chevrolet
28. #37 Tony Raines – Patron Tequila Dodge
29. #49 Ken Schrader – Red Baron Frozen Pizza Dodge
30. #136 Boris Said – CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet

31. #22 Scott Wimmer – CAT Dealers Dodge
32. #41 Casey Mears – Target Dodge
33. #77 Travis Kvapil – Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge
34. #7 Robby Gordon – Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet
35. #31 Jeff Burton – Cingular Wireless Chevrolet
36. #10 Scott Riggs – Valvoline Chevrolet
37. #66 Mike Garvey – Jani-King Ford
38. #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Budweiser Chevrolet
39. #11 J.J. Yeley – FedEx Freight Chevrolet
40. #91 Bill Elliott – McDonald’s Dodge
41. #45 Kyle Petty – Brawny/Georgia-Pacific Dodge
42. #192 Hermie Sadler – Oak Glove Co. Dodge
43. #151 Stuart Kirby – Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil Chevrolet

[Credit: NASCAR.com]

Nextel Cup Points Standings & Analysis [Thru California]
The following drivers (1st – 6th Place) have clenched a birth in the Chase for the Cup. While they can gain or lose ground on the leader, they are still locked in for the Chase.

01. — Tony Stewart 3570 Points
02. +1 Greg Biffle 3361 Points
03. -1 Jimmie Johnson 3312 Points
04. — Rusty Wallace 3257 Points
05. — Mark Martin 3149 Points
06. +1 Kurt Busch 3114 Points

The following drivers (7th Place -10th Place) are currently in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, but have not clenched their positions as of California.

07. -1 Jeremy Mayfield 3073 Points
08. — Carl Edwards 3014 Points
09. +2 Matt Kenseth 2939 Points
10. +2 Jamie McMurray 2929 Points

First things first – Matt Kenseth should be kissing the ground for getting hot at the exact right time, that’s for sure. Though his position in the Chase is tedious at best, Kenseth will probably find himself in the Chase so long as he doesn’t f*ck up in Richmond. Carl Edwards and Jeremy Mayfield are more of a concern to me than Kenseth is, because Mayfield ran terrible last night, and is not exactly the model for consistency. And Edwards is still a rookie, no matter how promising his career may be; Richmond is not an easy track, and rookies are prone to making BIG mistakes there. As for McMurray, I’m even less confident about his chances. He’s been riding the Carl Edwards roller coaster as of late, and his spot in the Chase is even more tenuous than his standing with Ganassi.

The following drivers are currently outside of the Top 10 in Points, and will have to race their way in at Richmond.

11. Ryan Newman 2928 Points
12. Jeff Gordon 2899 Points
13. Elliott Sadler 2877 Points
14. Dale Jarrett 2812 Points
15. Kevin Harvick 2798 Points
16. Joe Nemechek 2794 Points

I tell you this, too. If Newman fails to make the Chase, he should walk over and shove a catch can right up DJ’s butt for costing him his spot. Of course, Jarrett, Harvick, and Nemechek (short of winning at Richmond) are pretty much toast at Richmond; they’ll be eliminated early on in the race. I feel bad especially for Nemechek, because he wont have too many more opportunities at a chance like this in his career, and he would have been in the Chase for sure had it not been for the INSANE bad luck streak that has cost him at least two races (including the Coca-Cola 600) and top five finishes at other tracks, including the most recent Michigan race. Oh, well. Elliott Sadler and Jeff Gordon are the last two names to tackle, and they’re big ones. Gordon in particular, because Gordon’s struggles have been even more prolific than Junior’s, for the simple fact that Gordon started out hot, winning the Daytona 500 and at Martinsville. Gordon has been fighting his way back into the Chase ever since the disastrous “Wrigley Stadium” appearance, and he’d actually found the promised lands again. Will he make it into the Chase?

With that being said, there are several other drivers who find themselves on the outside of the Chase… only their chance to make the big dance is now history. Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Burton, and NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all been mathematically eliminated from “post-season” play. I’m already starting to prepare for the fallout of Junior’s elimination, though I’m not sure what kind of fallout to expect. It’s a two sided coin, really; Junior fans may spew venom for the “unfair” new points system that has cost their driver a chance at the title. On the other hand, some less enthusiastic Junior fans may bite back at the driver, who has critically underperformed in 2005. Whatever the case may be, it’ll be a long eleven races for the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet crew. That about sums up the points standings for now, so I think we’ll wrap up our California race coverage by offering up a “good riddance” to Fontana for the year. We’ve got a huge weekend upcoming in Richmond, and hopefully I’ll be in a bit better mood for that bad boy.

NASCAR Q & A
This is an experimental feature that I’ve been working on for awhile now. I was planning on adding this in with Know Your NASCAR, but the questions that I was coming up with really deserved their own little section. From now on, readers are welcomed to (and encouraged to) send you questions in, and I’ll answer any and all of them that I get, so long as I don’t run out of questions to answer. This week, we take a look at a couple of interesting FYI facts that you may find helpful.

Q: Do Poll Winners get points? – Slayer
A: Nope; poll winners are awarded the inside position at the very start of the race (which is the preferred “line” that drivers like to take around the turns of a race track). While no points are given to a pole winner, drivers that win pole awards are entered into a special race held during Speed Weeks in Daytona in February called the Budweiser Shootout. It’s sort of the unofficial 2nd all-star race, and is a pretty long-standing tradition in NASCAR.

Q: What does NASCAR stand for?
A: NASCAR stands for the (N)ational (A)ssociation for (S)tock (C)ar (A)uto (R)acing.

Q: How many races are in a NASCAR Nextel Cup Season?
A: Though the number of races have varied over the years, there are currently 36 points races on the NASCAR Schedule. The first race is the Daytona 500 from Daytona Beach, Florida and the final race is from Homestead-Miami, Florida. The “Chase for the Cup” begins in Loudon, New Hampshire. During the course of a season, there are four races on the Nextel Cup Series that are not points races: the Bud Shootout, the Twin Gatorade Duel 150s, and the Nextel All-Star Challenge from Charlotte.

Q: What kind of tracks does the Nextel Cup Series race on?
A: The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series runs a variety of races across the country, and while there are many different track configurations out there, you can generally break them down into six categories: short tracks, mile-long tracks, cookie cutters/sister tracks, the Carolina tracks, super speedways, and road courses. Short tracks are all racing circuits that are generally under 3/4ths of a mile in length. These tracks are known for their numerous wrecks, door-to-door racing, and exciting finishes. There are three true short tracks on the Nextel Cup Series right now: Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond.

Mile-long tracks are racing circuits that are approximately one mile in length, and usually have a traditional/symmetrical shape. Mile long tracks are a paradox, for they feature the speeds of large tracks, but the tight racing grooves of the short tracks. The most famous mile long track on the Cup Series is undoubtedly Dover International Speedway, which has earned the nickname, “the Monster Mile”. Phoenix and New Hampshire are also mile long tracks.

Cookie Cutters and Sister Tracks are tracks that generally range from 1.5 Miles – 2.0 Miles long. The Cookie Cutters are a series of tracks that are designed to look identical to each other, for whatever reason. These tracks are newer tracks that have only come into NASCAR in the past ten years, and they include Las Vegas, Kansas, and Chicagoland. The Sister Tracks are ingeniously designed tracks that either have a distinctive “Quad-Oval” design or a “D-Oval” design. The Quad-Oval tracks are all roughly 1.5 miles long, and feature some of the most exciting races on the Cup scene. They include Atlanta, Charlotte, and Texas Motor Speedway. The D-Ovals are roughly two miles long, and include Michigan and California.

The Carolina Tracks fit into their own category due to the variations found therein. These tracks are often touted as being the “home tracks” of most NASCAR Nextel Cup Series drivers. As of 2005, there are only two Carolina tracks left: Charlotte and Darlington. Charlotte has the distinction of falling in both the Sister Track and the Carolina track categories. Darlington is a 1.366 Mile Oval that has a broad right side and a narrow left side of the track, making it the oddest shaped oval on the Cup Series. At one point in time, the Carolina Tracks included Charlotte, Darlington, Rockingham, and North Wilkesboro, Raleigh and Columbia.

Super Speedways are technically racing circuits that are over 1.0 Miles in length, but we most commonly associate the term to race tracks at least 2.0 miles in length. Speeds at these monsters generally exceed 190 MPH regularly, though speeds over 200 MPH can be achieved at places like Pocono, Michigan, and California. At Daytona and Talladega, restrictor plates are used to keep speeds under 195 MPH in order to help prevent deadly crashes that have occurred here in the past. There are tons of “Super Speedways” on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but the most prevalent ones are: Daytona, Talladega, Pocono, and Indianapolis. Only Talladega has the term “Super Speedway” in its name.

Road Courses are unique from any other circuit on the Cup scene. These tracks can range from 2.0-2.5 Miles in length, but the tracks themselves feature odd-ball turns, short chutes, hills and rumble strips. Road Courses are the only tracks in NASCAR that have right turns on them, and only at road courses can you find sand traps to keep drivers from crashing into the walls. Road courses are regarded as the closest NASCAR comes to racing on an international-style circuit. As of 2005, there are only two road courses on the Cup Schedule: Infineon Raceway in California, and Watkins Glen in New York. NASCAR has raced at other road courses in the past, including Riverside Raceway in California, and the legendary Suzuka Racing Circuit in Japan. Of course, NASCAR’s Busch Series made history by racing at a road course in Mexico for points in March, and it’s only a matter of time before this race track is added to the Nextel Cup Series.

Q: What is the longest circuit in the Nextel Cup? The Shortest?
A: The longest circuit in the Nextel Cup is at the Talladega Superspeedway , which clocks in a 2.66 Miles long. The shortest track is actually Martinsville at 0.526 Miles, not Bristol (0.533 Miles) as most people think. The longest track ever raced by NASCAR is the Suzuka Racing Circuit in Japan at a staggering 3.068 Miles long, although that race (which has since been scrapped) was never a points race.

Q: Why can Stock Cars not race in the rain?
A: The main reason why stock cars cannot race in the rain is due to the fact that, unlike regular street cars, these race cars do not have any tread on their tires, which enables us to drive relatively safely in the rain. While racing at such high speeds on a banked surface, there would be no way to get any grip with your tires in a stock car, and thus the surface would just be too dangerous to race on. There are a few cosmetic problems otherwise, such as the cars having no headlights or windshield wipers that would make it rather difficult to see for the drivers.

Q: What is the closest finish in NASCAR history?
A: It is difficult to gauge the closest finish in the history of NASCAR, since officials did not use electronic timing at the finish line until 1993. Generally, most people assume the closest finish in NASCAR history to have occurred at the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 in Darlington, where Ricky Craven edged the 2004 Nextel Cup Champion Kurt Busch at the line by .002 seconds.

Q: Why is NASCAR referred to as a “Redneck” sport?
A: NASCAR was created in the South, bred in the South, and for most of its existence, run in the South. NASCAR was first created in Daytona Beach, Florida and ran races at places like Charlotte, Darlington, Columbia, Atlanta and Savannah. Despite an attempt to “nationalize” the sport over the past four years, NASCAR is still very much a concentrated southern sport.

Q: Why was Rockingham taken off the schedule? Rockingham was a great race!
A: Money. It all comes down to money. NASCAR could make more money buy giving the Rock’s races to California and Phoenix than it could to keep it in the Carolina countryside. So they took it away.

Q: Who has the most victories at Daytona International Speedway?
A: If you are speaking about the Daytona 500, then Richard Petty is your man; he won the Great American Race an unprecedented seven times! Otherwise, most might be shocked to know that Dale Earnhardt is among the best in Daytona history, capturing numerous Shootouts, IROC Races, Pepsi/Firecracker 400s… and one Daytona 500 in his legendary career.

Q: What does the Blue flag with the Orange stripe mean?
A: The blue/orange stripe flag is basically NASCAR’s way of telling a slow/lap-down car to move out of the way of the leaders, or other contenders. You will see this flag come out when a crippled car is trying to turn a few laps for points and get in the way of the leader.

Q: What is the longest race in the Nextel Cup?
A: Not to be confused with the longest track, the longest race in the Nextel Cup takes place every May at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (Charlotte). The Coca-Cola 600, formerly known as the World 600, is perhaps the longest race in North America sans endurance races. Last year, a big deal was made over the fact that the Coca-Cola 600 was starting to eclipse a historically larger race taking place on the same day: the Indianapolis 500.

Q: What does it mean to pull “double duty” during the Coca Cola 600?
A: Pulling double duty at the Coca-Cola 600 refers to a driver that raced in both the Indianapolis 500 early in the day, and the Coca-Cola 600 that night. It is regarded by most as the toughest challenge in auto racing today, and is next to impossible to complete successfully (ie win both races). Recently, Robbie Gordon and Tony Stewart both have pulled double duty on the Memorial Day weekend race.

Q: I’m new to NASCAR. What race would you recommend seeing live?
A: Sadly enough, the best races to watch live are the races that have five-year long waiting lists for tickets. Bristol is regarded by most as the most exciting race to watch live, because of its intimacy and, well, door to door racing. Unless you plan on going to Charlotte, Indianapolis or Daytona for the 600/Indy 500/Daytona 500, try looking for tickets to Martinsville, Richmond, Phoenix, and Bristol (and if you find Bristol tickets, send one my way, please.)

Q: On the flip side, which races would you recommend to avoid seeing live?
A: Being at a race usually ensures you that you’ll never be bored, just because of the atmosphere, but that isn’t always the case when watching at home on television. While watching races at Talladega and Daytona are great fun, it can be awful hard to see the cars when they race down the back straightaway. The same can be said for Watkins Glen and Infineon, as the layout of the track just makes it impossible to see the cars at all times. Another track infamous for its bad seating is Darlington, although that depends on where you’re sitting. On TV, New Hampshire and any of the Cookie Cutters are usually the worst races to watch.

Q: What is the “Polish” victory lap, and why is it important?
A: While most drivers to doughnuts and burnouts to please the crowd, the Polish Victory Lap is where the driver turns his car around and drives around the track in the wrong direction. The move was made famous by Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion who was killed in a plane crash in 1993, not too long before Davey Allison died in a helicopter crash. (Note: NASCAR legend Neil Bonnett would die just months after Allison in 1994, marking the close to a tragic period in NASCAR). So, when someone takes a Polish victory lap, they’re paying tribute to “Special K”, Alan Kulwicki.

Victory Lap for the Pimps
Check out the NHL digs on the IP Sports main page for the full list of pimp daddies.

Victory Lane
And so there was one. One race left until the Chase, guys and gals. We’ve got ourselves a big time weekend coming up, and Speed Addicts is there to cover it all. A complete pre-Richmond column featuring all the wholesome goodness you’ve yearned for, plus a look at the Chase contenders, and what they have to do to stay alive. Also, don’t forget to look for our Chase Preview Special on Sunday, along with the 3rd IP Quarter Special next Saturday prior to New Hampshire. Until all that, and then, this is the Speed Addict, wishing you guys a good one.

Peace, my homies.