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Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Nascar |

Does NASCAR know when to hold ‘em?

On Friday, I got out of the shower. I do that most days, typically after getting in it. Most of the time, I wind up getting dressed in the bedroom and turn on the TV while I’m rubbing lotion into my ailing feet, then putting on my socks, pants, shoes, etc.

“Let’s Make a Deal” was on. I didn’t realize there was such a show anymore. Monty Hall recently turned 89 years old. Wayne Brady hosts it now.

So I’m watching this reworked version of a game show I grew up watching. Suddenly it occurred to me: NASCAR, over the past decade, has been a metaphor. For “Let’s Make a Deal.” NASCAR constantly turns down the money and opts for Door No. 2. Or the box.

Wayne Brady: “All right, you’ve got millions and millions of dollars. You can take that right now. Or you can give me the money and take what’s behind … that door.”

Brian Z. France: “I’m going for the door, Wayne.”

WB: “You’re already running a mainstream sport. You’re sure about this?”

BZF (dressed as a huge wedge of cheese): “I’m sure, Wayne. Who wants to be in the mainstream? I want to run the NFL out of business!”

Wayne takes the money. “What’s behind Door No. 2?”

Announcer’s voice (with buxom lass displaying merchandise): “Congratulations, Brian France, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking excitement of the Chase for the Nextel Cup! You’ll be there as the 10 best drivers in the world battle it out over 10 weeks to decide the championship of America’s Fastest Growing Sport!”

A few years later, BZF wangles another invitation to the show.

WB: “OK, Brian, you’ve earned untold millions more. You’ve implemented a new race car. You’ve moved races around. You can keep all this money, all these ticket sales, all these TV ratings, or you can risk it all on what’s in that box?”

The audience screams, “Go for it! Go For it!” Audiences always want the contestants to gamble. It’s not their money.

BZF: “Let’s see, Wayne, I could keep what I’ve got and be comfortable forever. But that’s just not good enough. I don’t want to be comfortable. No, I want to be even bigger than the NFL. I want to run the World Cup out of business. I’m going for the box!”

WB: “OK, it’s up to you. Show us what’s behind … the box!”

Announcer: “The Chase for the Sprint Cup is going to undergo changes, Mr. France! Instead of the 10 best drivers, now it’ll be the 12 best drivers!”

(Audience squeals as if Beatles just walked onto stage of “Ed Sullivan Show.”)

“But that’s not all. Oh, no, it won’t just be 10 races. It’ll be 10 races loaded with dazzling, wreck-spackled finishes … in overtime. Dozens of cars will not be allowed to remain anywhere but on the lead lap. And when the Chase begins, Mr. France, the regular-season point standings won’t have anything to do with it! The order will be determined by … that’s right … bonus points for winning!”

“How will this affect the outcome?” BZF asks in a tone of wonder, punching at the air with both fists?”

“Jimmie Johnson will still win!”

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh. A bit of a downer from the audience.

BZF just can’t give up these occasional appearances on “Let’s Make a Deal.” He is an inveterate gambler, always willing to let everything ride. He just knows that next door will be loaded down with riches that will reverse the declining attendance and ratings.

Fortunately, BZF isn’t on the show every week or even every year. Otherwise, the utter predictability of his actions would be more obvious.

NASCAR spin doctors say the slump is all economy. The fans still love everything about NASCAR – generic cars, lucky dogs, Giggywucks, wave-arounds, etc., etc., etc. – but some of them are hurting, and they just can’t afford it. If they could afford it, they’d be there every week. This is what NASCAR says it gets from its fan councils and focus groups and marketing surveys.

If that’s true, why keep changing everything willy-nilly?

Even though everything is might-nigh perfect, says BZF, it can still be better. So he’s going to stand on that imaginary stage alongside imaginary Wayne Grady again and let everything ride, hoping Door No. 3 doesn’t have a mule and a scarecrow behind it.

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Posted by on Jul 6, 2018 in Nascar |

How they learned to stop worrying …

In the effort to “protect the brand,” NASCAR is treating its elite class like they were frat hellions from “Animal House”– and the drivers are playing along.

Years ago, it seemed as if prominent NASCAR figures – drivers, crew chiefs, owners, sponsor reps – were always leaking things to me.

They’d pass along some piece of juicy information, invariably preceded by, “You didn’t get this from me, but …”

At one point, I responded to one of these bits of gossip by telling the source, “You know, for years and years, black people were treated badly … but eventually, Dr. Martin Luther King did come along.”

These folks wanted me to fight their battles for them.

The NASCAR equivalent of Dr. King is still nowhere to be found. Earlier this week, the news broke that the absolute ruler of stock car racing had been fining some drivers secretly. Apparently, they were guilty of “damaging the NASCAR brand.”

Isn’t it funny when men whose job involves stock cars racing one another for hundreds of laps/miles use words like “brand.” It’s a softer way of saying, basically, “Don’t you dare say something bad about us.”

The game is known as “spin.” A group of prominent figures get together, agonize over being caught doing something they didn’t want anyone to know about and discuss just how they can possibly talk their way out of a mess.

“They fine coaches in basketball for criticizing the officials.” Yeah, and they announce it when they do.

Of all people, Ryan Newman, who happens to be one of the drivers fined not-so-secretly-after-all, actually said on Friday, at Michigan International Speedway, that he was OK with such subterfuge.

“It’s no different than any other sport,” he insisted on Sirius XM satellite radio. “It’s just that we don’t want to publicize the fact that we’re penalizing people for what they say. And other sports do it non-stop, continuously, and you have repeat offenders just like you do other crimes. It’s nothing that anybody wants to be a part of, but unfortunately it’s something that we have to, a part of our sport that we have to address.”

Gee whiz. Remember the line from “Animal House”? “Thank, you, sir, may I have another?”

Jeff Burton, of whom the adjective “statesmanlike” is often used, said he didn’t think he’d ever said anything that merited a fine, so he wasn’t worried about it. It was unusual to see Burton reduced to “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”

Tony Stewart, as usual, blamed the media. There is no truth, however, to the rumor that he blames the media for oil in the gulf, water on the knee and soap scum in the shower.

What could be worse for an allegedly mainstream sport than to punish people without admission or explanation? For years, people have joked about “double secret probation.” (Gosh, I’ll be darned. Another “Animal House” reference.) Apparently, it wasn’t a joke.

“I look at this being a private matter and think that it’s actually a good thing,” said Jimmie Johnson, even though, apparently, there were no electrodes attached to shock him if he departed from the company line. “The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn’t like what they were saying, and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good.

“I don’t think that it’s good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again, and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on.”

Brian France isn’t merely the chairman. He is apparently a monarch by divine right: omnipotent, omniscient and, by his own admission, multifaceted.

Here’s the bottom line from the flip side of the equation: Fans have a right to the whole story. Start whitewashing everything, and it ruins the luster of the wood. This is just a fairy tale, and NASCAR has been playing Chicken Little to its drivers by claiming the sky is falling.

Unlike the aforementioned Mr. Little, the drivers still believe it. And they get what they deserve.

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Posted by on Jun 27, 2018 in Racing, Racing History, View from the Grandstands |

Racecarstuff Back Online, NASCAR All Star Race, the Jarretts

Yes, I have promised to start writing again in the past, and I am going to do it again. Maybe I will actually keep my promise this time. Life for me has gone through many changes since I was getting 10-20 articles a month here, some for the better and some not so much for the better.

Ideas for articles are always floating around in my head. Some of the ideas are the best ever written, but they never seem to get flushed out of the cerebral spheres to the digital media. That is a pattern that has to change for the better. There is too much pent up frustration in keeping good articles about racing in my head.

Tonight, my favorite racing news show, Wind Tunnel had a special episode for the week of the NASCAR All-Star race. The Jarretts, Ned and Dale, were special guests. They had the usual questions about their careers, and Dale’s impending last race of his career. But the thing that got my attention was the comment about Ned’s broadcasting with ESPN. Dave Despain said that the years of Ned, Benny Parsons, and Bob Jenkins were thought by most of the hardcore racing fans to be the best broadcasts ever done for a race.

This comment made me start thinking. I had always felt that way, but why? In prior years there had been teams that were usually made up of an “expert” and a couple of professional broadcasters. What was better about Ned, Benny, and Bob? The thing I liked about it was the fact that they realized this was a “series”. Prior to the ESPN years of the ’80’s and ’90’s racing was occasionally covered on mixed in with figure skating on ABC’s Wide World or Sports. The sport had to be “sold” to fans of stick and ball sports. That meant that every race had to have a presentation of the art of drafting, the examination of pit crew members jobs, and more crashes in the tape delay post production than laps of good racing. Saying it simply, we were being treated as 5 year olds every race.

With the growth of cable TV in the early days, the creation of 24 hour sports networks, and dedicated sports fans all came together to make the most of a special opportunity. Racing was an easy fit in that many of the races could be cheaply covered, and sponsor opportunities were everywhere. The influx of money gave the production team the opportunities to develop new ideas with moving scoring, in-car cameras at all angles, and reporters that were participants in the race.

Soon rather than coverage of 3-5 races a year, we had coverage of every race, live flag to flag. Instead of targeting a baseball fan, that only knew how to put gas in his/her daily commuter, now the broadcast was aimed at people who watched from week to week. The fans now knew all of drivers, they knew how drafting worked at Daytona and Talladega, and they were tired of being treated like 5 year olds. The broadcast team now could target a true fan for a change. They could discuss one car being stronger in the middle of a turn, and another being better at corner entry. They could handle discussions of camber and caster angles at Charlotte being different than Pocono. The fans could be treated like RACING fans.

The other big factor was the fact that the costs involved with the coverage were still fairly low. There were relatively few commercials. We got to watch racing… not graphics shows, constant repeats of the “best parts”. It was just good simple racing coverage. Just what the doctor ordered.

Today, the broadcast seems to be aimed more at entertainment, which honestly the racing has been geared more in that direction as well. The graphics and cyber replays are nice, but the true fan would probably rather see the battle going on for 14th place than an analysis of if Dale Jr. moved down or Kyle Bush moved up. The true racing fan appreciates what the sponsors had given then free of charge (at least directly) but there are as many commercials in a hundred laps now as there were in the whole race back then.

Thanks for what you gave us Ned, Benny, and Bob. It was something we will never see again.

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Posted by on Jun 17, 2018 in Cars |

Why are used car prices plummeting rapidly? How to avoid the pitfalls of buying used.

Why do new cars cost more every year yet their used counterparts are decreasing in value? According to a detailed study conducted by Used Cars Exposed, a five year old used car is worth considerably less now than five years ago for the same age car. In other words, the average new car in Australia in 2000 depreciated by 30% after three years compared with 21% in 1995. At this rate, a 2003 model will lose 36% of its value after three years.
Alarmingly, used car values in the United States have dropped by the same amount although used cars in this country depreciate quicker than in Australia.
The average car in the united Kingdom now loses a staggering 68% of its new purchase price after three years compared with 62% from 1993.
The big question on everyone’s lips right now is: ‘how much will my new car be worth in five years?’ More to the point, how much can the average person afford to lose? As times are slowly getting tougher and inflation is on the rise, many families and average wage earners are turning to used cars. Whether it is the average family buying a second run-about or the student looking for his/her first car, used cars are going to be with us long into the future.
But before you go out and buy the first used car that you see, or even the one that your grandfather’s friend is selling, there are dangers to look out for.
I, James Alphonse, was recently in the market for a used car but did not have a clue what to buy. People with well meaning advice scared me with comments like: ‘what if the car is unreliable?’ or ‘do you know what problems to look for?’ and ‘do you understand how each car operates and handles?’
No, I had no idea. Foolishly I bought an old Gemini from a friend for more than it was really worth and it proved to be the most unreliable bomb I ever owned. Over a period of three years I ended up spending nearly $4,000 just to keep it in working order. What a waste of money!
It was only then that I decided to look for some sort of information book that would give detailed information about every used car such as the average used price per year, reliability and recall report, test drive, what problems to look out for, fuel economy, overall practicality and model history. nothing of its kind existed – up until now. An acquaintance, Mr. A. Milkins has recently started a new web site that provides this very information plus more. Derived from technical service bulletins and extensive research since 2001, Used Cars Exposed was released in late 2003. Speaking to mr. Milkins, this is what he told me:
“Basically, Used Cars Exposed endeavours to provide the average person with all the vital information they need when considering purchasing a used car. For a modest AU$35 price tag, buyers in this market have all the resources for nearly every make and model dating from 1970 to the present day. It takes virtually all the worry and risk out of finding the right car. Armed with this valuable data, one can boldly select a used car and rest assured knowing they may have saved themselves from losing thousands in repairs,”
Does Used Cars Exposed serve only Australia?
“No, special editions are available for the American and British markets as well as Australia. A South African version will also be on offer soon,”
Do you think this is good value for money?
“AU$35 is only US$18 and 14 pounds in England. Considering that the Used Cars Exposed CD-book contains around 200 of pages of valuable information that can save you a small fortune, of coarse it is good value,” Mr. Milkins said.
The advice in the CD was definitely worth its weight in gold as I have been able to avoid a few pitfalls and am now driving a decent used vehicle.
Check out http : // usedcarsexposed . com and save a fortune.

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Posted by on Jun 4, 2018 in Car Tips |

Overview Of Car Parts In An Emissions System

Overview Of Car Parts In An Emissions System

The emissions system is one of the areas that most drivers happily ignore. They might diligently have the oil in their cars changed every 5,000 miles. And they may replace the filters religiously. But, when it comes to the parts and components that comprise their emissions system, many people close their eyes and hope for the best. The problem is that there are a lot of parts that contribute to that area and things can go wrong with each of them. When they malfunction, which can happen as your vehicle ages, the fuel-efficiency and performance of your car can suffer dramatically.

Today, I’ll provide you with a quick overview of the components that make up your vehicle’s emissions system. I’ll also explain the tasks for which they’re responsible, and what can happen to them over time.

Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter is supposed to help eliminate hydrocarbons that are in the exhaust. There are several chemicals within the part that allow it to perform this function. However, those chemicals don’t last forever; they diminish with constant use. When they’re exhausted (no pun intended), your vehicle can fail an emissions test. Just remember, a catalytic converter may look fine, but the chemicals within can be depleted.

The Muffler

Very few people ever think about their car’s muffler and when they do, it’s normally in the context of how their engine sounds without it. In truth, the muffler plays an important role in managing the pressure that results from your engine’s combustion process. Plus, it also helps the catalytic converter regulate the temperature at which it burns hydrocarbons.

Oxygen Sensor

Your engine requires both gas and oxygen during combustion. Its operational efficiency depends largely on the mixture of both elements. When there’s too much oxygen present, the exhaust will contain too many hydrocarbons, causing the catalytic converter to work harder. Your car’s oxygen sensor helps to regulate the mixture of gas and air used during combustion. However, they can wear out quickly, so plan to change the sensor every 4 or 5 years (of course, double-check your owner’s manual).

PCV Valve

PCV values are relatively cheap and they perform a simple function, but they’re critical to your car’s emissions. The crankcase has a tendency to accumulate gases. The valve’s job is to redirect those gases over to the intake manifold. If that doesn’t happen, the fumes contained inside the crankcase can “dirty” your vehicle’s exhaust. PCV valves can get blocked or clogged over the years, so you’ll need to replace it periodically. But, it’s a simple job and doesn’t take much time.

A Team Of Car Parts

The components that I’ve mentioned above work as a team in order to clean up your vehicle’s emissions. That means if one component malfunctions, the effectiveness of the others can be impacted. Have them checked the next time you visit your mechanic. By keeping the entire system in good shape, you’ll enjoy better fuel-efficiency and performance.

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