Some thoughts on the news of the year so far …
• Great move by Joe Gibbs Racing to lock up Kyle Busch now, long before his contract status (he was due to become a free agent after the 2011 season) could become an issue. JGR's next order of business will be to re-sign Denny Hamlin, who is entering the last year of his contract.
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• While I understand why Phoenix International Raceway lengthened its spring race, I'm not in favor of NASCAR lengthening anything. The sport already has an oversaturation problem. They need to concentrate on making the product more appealing, not shoving more of the same down fans throats just so they can say the race finished under the lights.
• Auto Club Speedway shortening its Chase race is the right thing to do, but I don't think it will be enough to make the show there any better. As I noted following the announcement, this is the equivalent of shaving a few minutes off the end of "Ishtar." You still have a crappy movie, just a shorter crappy movie. The track itself needs to be reconfigured. That's the only way to make ACS more exciting.
• I don't know if potential changes to some of the rules/governing policies – a spoiler instead of a wing; allowing passing under the yellow line at Daytona and Talladega – will make a difference, but I applaud NASCAR for trying. I especially like the idea of allowing drivers to police themselves. A less PC NASCAR is a better NASCAR.
Now, onto the mailbag …
24 hours of NASCAR
It dawned on me while reading up on Jimmie Johnson while watching re-runs of 24. I know why he shaved his head and grew a beard last season. See he was hiding from all his haters. Just like Jack Bauer, he faked his death so he could live a normal life elsewhere, but then he found himself stopping terrorists and saving Los Angeles all over again. Same thing happened to Jimmie … except instead of stopping bad guys he won another championship. Hopefully, for Jimmie's sake, he doesn't follow the Jack Bauer formula any further, because the equivalent to Jack going into Chinese custody the next season would be Jimmie going into angry fans' custody. And who knows what would happen there.
Los Gatos, Calif.
Oh-kay then, well, at least this gives me an opportunity to break down the new season of "24" …
(Spoiler alert: If you haven't watched yet, skip to the next letter)
Kiefer Sutherland, a.k.a. Jack Bauer, gives the command to start engines at a 2008 race at Pocono Raceway.
For three hours, 56 minutes it was mostly formulaic. Jack is back, of course, gets roped into a terrorist plot where he's the only one smart enough to figure out who's the bad guy thanks, of course, to sourpuss Chloe, who for the life of me I can't figure out how she's survived while everyone else at CTU (Tony Almeida, Audrey Raines, Bill Buchanan, Edgar, etc.) has bitten the bullet (sometimes literally) in some way shape or form.
Anyway, between the stupidity of the new CTU chief and the fact that Freddie Prinze Jr. is a main character on the show, I was getting a little down on this season, ready to pass it off as not being as good as last season, which wasn't as good as the season before that, which wasn't as good as the season before that, etc., etc., when out of nowhere the Renee Walker power saw saves the day, literally.
This is the genius of 24. You know there are going to be 3,476 twists in the plot; that whatever the original "plan" seems to be is only a diversion to what's really going on; that some domestic issue will inevitably flair up on the exact day a CTU agent doesn't need it to happen (and don't think for a second the ex-boyfriend showing up on this day is a coincidence); and that Jack Bauer will be arrested and let go at least two dozen times (it's already happened twice) in a 24-hour period. Despite knowing all this, you don't foreshadow a suicidal former FBI agent walking into an auto parts store and sawing off some Russian gangster's hand, then barking at Bauer to "find something to cauterize that wound."
Ladies and gentlemen, there's a new badass in town and it ain't Jack. And now I'm hooked.
Jay, what do you think about ESPN moving all but three races from ABC to cable? This is something that stinks to high heaven for me because I smell a breach somewhere.
It requires cable, people, not that you buy a Maybach. And as my colleague Jay Busbee pointed out, if you have the Internet, you probably have cable. Sure, I sympathize for those of you who can't afford cable. In fact, I applaud you, because you're among the few who are making an actual fiscally responsible choice. But you do have options: go to a bar, a friend's house or, if neither of those is appealing, join our chat during every race. We either do or don't talk about Dale Earnhardt Jr., depending on where your allegiance lies.
Mr. Hart: In your Top 20 Driver Countdown for 2010 you have Kevin Harvick ranked at No. 15, a ranking I totally agree with. The scenarios on his future are quite interesting, as you pointed out. A No. 4 car at Joe Gibbs Racing? I don't see that. Harvick would punch KyBusch's lights out, as I believe they would mix like Vinegar and Water. I don't see him and Denny Hamlin as friends either. Just two different people.
A third car at Stewart-Haas? Well, he and Smoke are good friends. I think that would be an awesome situation for Harvick, but as we all well know, the evil economy and sponsorship monsters will come in to play on this one.
How about this: Harvick thumbs his nose and starts his own team? He's had unquestioned success in the truck series, where he has solid sponsorship that I think would help him out in Cup, and I think he'd make a great Cup Owner. What's your take?
If there is a driver who could and would do that, it would be Harvick. That said, I don't see it happening. Look, Tony Stewart's success as an owner is the exception, not the rule, and a lot of that has to do with the backing he gets from Rick Hendrick. Harvick wouldn't get that kind of support, meaning his best shot at success would be with one of the proven teams.
I don't doubt that Harvick will have a Cup team one day, just not right now.
The goal for 2010? Wake me when the chase starts (because as we all know none of the races really count until the final 10) and then we'll see if Jimmie can once again dominate his favorite mile and halfs...should be back to sleep 5 races into the Chase yet again. Nice job NASCAR.
Good to see John hasn't made up his mind before a single green flag is dropped. Give it a few races, then get back to me.
Last call …
What is TMZ and MWR? Are you too lazy to type out the names so we all know what you're talking about?