Archive for May, 2009

NASCAR: Time for Junior’s defining moment

Posted in Column, NASCAR with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by Martin Henderson

He’s the most popular driver in America, and right now, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is the most overrated.

He is in the worst slump of his career. He moved to the best team in NASCAR and has won once — the same number of victories as David Reutimann running for a team that isn’t one of the super teams, or Brad Keselowski running for an independent, for gosh sakes.

In other words, Dale Jr. is just a guy. Because of his extraordinary popularity, he might as well be Anna Kournikova. Or Danica Patrick.

Continue reading

Advertisements

NASCAR: Stewart-Haas a surprise at every turn

Posted in Column, NASCAR with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Martin Henderson

I scribbled these words onto a notepad more than a month ago.

The biggest surprise of the 2009 NASCAR season?

Tony Stewart.

And Ryan Newman.

Stewart-Haas Racing.

Not necessarily in that order.

Newman had finished third and Stewart 23rd at Talladega. “Nine races into the season after having taken on the project that was Haas CNC Racing, both Stewart and Newman are surprisingly competitive.” Those words were written back then, too. Stewart was fourth in the standings, and Newman 13th.

Why so much attention to something written but never printed? Because the Stewart-Haas Racing saga was important — not to mention surprising — even before the rest of the country dialed in and Racescribe had a chance to transcribe his notes.

Continue reading

IRL: Tracy/Foyt pairing could be heaven and hell

Posted in Column, IRL with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Martin Henderson

This is what we’ve been waiting for.

Paul Tracy is driving for A.J. Foyt. Two men with take-no-prisoners attitudes.

This fusion of personalities may be what A.J. Foyt Enterprises has been waiting for. Darren Manning was surprisingly good on road courses last season for Foyt’s team. Vitor Meira may not match Manning on the road, but is a step up on ovals even if the team is a step behind everyone else.

Manning and Meira are extremely nice men.

Tracy is not.

Continue reading

IRL: A special memory suitable for ever

Posted in Column, IRL with tags , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by Martin Henderson

There are moments you should remember the rest of your life. This was one of them.

Fewer than six weeks after being acquitted of tax evasion charges, Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

For the third time.

Winning once is historic. Winning twice is monumental.

Three times?

Continue reading

IRL: Sex sells, but with luck, Fisher sails

Posted in Column, IRL with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Most Americans with a rooting interest in the Indianapolis 500 later today will be pulling for the wrong girl.

Instead of hoping that Danica Patrick wins the 500, folks should be pulling for Sarah Fisher. Not that she has any chance of winning. She doesn’t, unlike Patrick, who drives for one of the best teams in the IRL IndyCar Series and does a pretty good job of getting around the iconic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Yet Fisher is starting her eighth Indy race, more than any other woman. She has never driven for a team as good as the Andretti Green Racing squad that squeezes Patrick into and out of a firesuit, nor the Rahal-Letterman outfit that helped Patrick to a fourth-place finish in 2005 that catapulted her to stardom. For those of you who may have forgotten, Patrick finished fourth in spite of herself; she caused a couple of accidents that took out a handful of competitors.

But Fisher — who was the league’s perennial most popular driver until Patrick arrived on the scene — may be the sentimental choice among other drivers. Helio Castroneves said that if he or teammate Ryan Briscoe didn’t win the race, he was hopeful it would be Fisher. Don’t bet that he is alone.

Continue reading

NHRA: Johnson’s impact could snap a Coil

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by Martin Henderson

You could see Austin Coil bristle when the question was asked. A man of intense pride and accomplishment, perhaps the question was worded poorly, or the context misunderstood completely.

Whatever, there was a moment when slapping the reporter silly crossed his mind. He might never admit to it, but that’s not what his eyes said.

“I’ve won 16 championships,” said Coil, who won 14 since joining John Force to become the most dominant crew chief/driver combination in racing history. “How many has he won?”

Continue reading

IRL: As weekends go, Rahal stole the show

Posted in Column, IRL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Alex Lloyd was money. Scott Sharp was off the hook. And Helio  Castroneves was, well, Castronevesque.

But clearly the most impressive performer over the first weekend of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 was America’s best hope for a superstar.

Graham Rahal.

His first coup came on Saturday, when he pulled a sixth-place qualifying run off the board and,  in a new car, qualified fourth. In other words, he out-qualified Scott Dixon, the defending race champion as well as the defending IndyCar  Series champion for Team Target.

Continue reading