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The Glen Dog

Move over Martinsville, there’s a new dog in town. That is…The Glen Dog.

Offered at Watkins Glen International for the first time, The Glen Dog, is a Sahlen’s brand hot dog nestled in a pretzel bun, covered in Yancy’s Fancy macaroni and cheese and dusted with Cheez-It crumbles. The premise behind its creation was to rival fellow ISC track Martinsville with having the best hot dog in NASCAR. Martinsville’s dogs are well known, but this dog will give it a run for its money.

That is perfect sponsor placement on the part of the marketing folks at Watkins Glen (all three companies being track sponsors), but the ingredients come together for a delicious tasting dog. It retails for $7 and can be only found at certain food stands around the track, but if you get your hands on this dog, you will not be disappointed.

5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run.

With that excitement and the season closing in on the end of the regular season and start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are many questions coming into the weekend. Here are just five of them:

Who can pull off the win and get into the Chase?

Looking right off the bat you have to go to a driver who has wins, but is outside the top-30 in points. That’d be Kyle Busch, who’s a two time champion of this event. He needs to earn maximum points to get his way into the top-30 and into the Chase. More on him in a bit.

Two more intriguing names are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Stewart is the all-time wins leader at The Glen with five and is on the outside looking in on the Chase. Gordon is in via points for the time being, but with the second most wins (four) at the track has to be a favorite. I would like to say the fact it will be Gordon final race at the track will factor in, but he hasn’t performed that well when running at tracks the final time. In fact, looking at his Watkins Glen record he hasn’t finished better than 10th in his last seven races here.

While in the Chase by points right now, Kasey Kahne must make up for a 43rd place finish last weekend at Pocono. He has an uphill battle to do so since his best finish here has been a 12th, that coming last season. AJ Allmendinger will look to duplicate his victory last season that got him into the Chase. Currently 23rd in points, Watkins Glen represents the last bit of hope Allmendinger has at getting his second career win.

Can Kyle Busch’s Streak Continue?

It is hard to believe that Busch has only run 10 races so far this season and has come away with four wins, four top-5s, and five top-10 finishes. Had it not been for being just shy on fuel last weekend, we’d be talking about how he’s gone five for 10 with wins. Busch is a two-time Watkins Glen winner who had a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes snapped last year at the track. He will be strong and quite possibly dominate this weekend knowing he needs to go balls out to get the most points he can.

Will the “Road Course Ringers” have an impact on the race?

Had this been written about 20 years earlier, I would say yes. Now that it is 2015 and quality rides are just not there for “Ringers,” it is an resounding “no” to the question. The only “Ringers” entered this weekend at Boris Said and TJ Bell. Bell will be with Premium Motorsports’ #62 team that has had a terrible record of qualifying for races. He might be a “ringer,” but Bell hasn’t been in a Sprint Cup car since 2012, and that coupled with the car he is in, he’ll be lucky to make the race. What plays in his favor is that there are only 44 cars entered this weekend. For Said he gets to run for Go FAS Racing in the #32 Genesee Brewery Ford. Go FAS isn’t the worst team on the track each weekend, but it is far from being even average. For all his skill, it would be a victory for the team if Said finished in the top-20 this weekend.

Will it rain this weekend?

It seems like whenever the Sprint Cup Series comes to my native New York, rain always tries to ruin the party. In a nine year stretch qualifying was rained out five times. Five freakin’ times, and yes I’m still bitter about having to drive two hours to sit in the rain and not see anything done. This weekend has a slight chance of rain on Sunday, but I’m confident it will stay away. As of this posting Accuweather.com has it at a 40% chance and with this NASCAR will be coming with rain tires just in case. The rest of the weekend looks to be perfect at around 80 and sunny. It’s just Sunday has the possibility, like always.

With it being Jeff Gordon’s final race here, what is your favorite memory?

The easy answer is to go for any one of his four wins, including three straight from 1997-1999, but I’m going to go a different direction. It was the 2000 race and right at the beginning (right in front of where I was sitting) Gordon and Tony Stewart got together through the esses. Both cars continued the race, Stewart finished sixth and Gordon 23rd. After the race is where the real fireworks happened, cameras caught the exchange between the two drivers, which to me made me respect Gordon a bit more afterwards. I had pegged him as a cry baby kind of driver who never would stand up for himself. Here I was proved wrong as the video shows, Gordon was not back down to anyone including Stewart. My favorite part is when Gordon tells Stewart to “speed up and that won’t happen” and closes with “I owe you one now buddy.” Classic. I hope both drivers can get back to their competitive fiery ways on Sunday.

Kauffman, Bowyer Set For New NASCAR Life

News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. (CGR)This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Kauffman and driver Clint Bowyer’s potential revitalization.

When Kauffman bought into MWR in October 2007 it was assumed an influx of cash might help the organization get back on its feet, or at least get some traction. The process was slow and painful, but in time they did get there. Clint Bowyer finished second in the standings in 2012 with three victories in the season, just about half of the total in the organization’s history.

Then there was the 2013 Richmond Spingate that nearly crushed the organization and probably planted the bug in Kauffman’s ear about greener pastures elsewhere. The team has been average, at best, the past two seasons. The bright spot of the team is the charismatic and funny Bowyer, but he is in essence wasting away during the prime of his career.

If the plan comes to fruition, Kauffman buying into Chip Ganassi Racing, that could be the best thing that ever happened to not only Kauffman or Bowyer, but the sponsors that could be loyal to them and the Ganassi organization. Currently CGR has veteran Jamie McMurray who has quietly been having a solid season in the #1 car and second year man Kyle Larson, who is down in points, but has a very high ceiling given his talent. Pairing Bowyer with those two drivers will help make Bowyer a better driver, rather than comparing notes with a rotating door of drivers that he’s dealt with for most of his time at MWR.

The Ganassi team is on the cusp of getting over the preverbal hump, already having alliances with Hendrick Motorsports, and I would presume Kauffman would bring money to the table for the team to not only expand to three cars, but also invest into more R&D projects.

Not to mention how perfect of a match it could be for Kauffman and his road racing background to be paired with one of the best road racing owners in the business. That could open avenues in other areas of motorsports for the pair, something Kauffman tried to do with Waltrip, but again, he’s Waltrip and he likes to goo things up.

My only hope with Waltrip still owning a team was maybe one day he’d be forced off the airways to either concentrate on his team, or remove the obvious conflict of interest he has each week, but it seems that Kauffman will remove that question from Waltrip. So while I like the move for Kauffman and Bowyer, I dislike it because we’re almost guaranteed more Waltrip on TV. Oh…boy.

Waltrip Setting Stage To Exit NASCAR Ownership

News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Waltrip in this piece and how ownership has gone for the goofy pitchman.

While all parties are mum on the situation, it is amazing that Waltrip had not been run out of ownership sooner given what his history has been in the position. Waltrip founded his team on the foundation of being a Toyota flag ship for their entry into NASCAR in 2007. It didn’t take long for the goofy pitchman’s luster to start wearing off. At the season opening Daytona 500, the team was found to have used jet fuel in their cars to get an advantage. NASCAR did not look kindly on this infraction handing out suspensions, monetary and points fines, and stripping the teams of their qualifying times. What a great first impression for Toyota into a sport that already had fans annoyed with a non-American company entering into it.

The season would not continue any less smooth as the teams of Waltrip (#55), Dale Jarrett (#44), and David Reutimann (#00) routinely missed races. Reutimann missing 10, Jarrett missing 12, and Waltrip’s team missing 17. This kind of performance ran Jarrett out of the sport after five races in 2008 (planned in advance of the season, but you have to wonder how forced his hand was after 2007), but more importantly left Waltrip on the brink of bankruptcy once sponsors began jettisoning the team.

Enter Kauffman, who brought a boat load of cash to the organization, enough to become majority owner of the team baring Waltrip’s name. The next season was slightly better with Waltrip and Reutimann starting all the races, but the team nearly destroy Michael McDowell’s career before it started by pushing him into the #00 car. By 2009, the #44 team folder with Reutimann returning to the 00 and Waltrip took his last run for a full season in the #55.

The team turned around and hit its stride during this time period with Reutimann collecting wins in 2009 and 2010. The team added Martin Truex Jr into the mix in 2011, then in true Waltrip fashion, unceremoniously tossed Reutimann (a loyal Waltrip guy) to the curb so late in 2011 he could not find a ride and never fully recovered. That opened the door for Clint Bowyer to join the team for 2012 and they were rewarded with three wins from his team and a 2nd place finish in the points.

Just when things looked their brightest in 2013, Waltrip done Waltrip’d himself again. Truex won at Sonoma, fill in Brian Vickers won at New Hampshire, and the team was poised to have Truex and Bowyer in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. During the Richmond race, final regular season race, Bowyer got directions to cause a caution to the benefit of Truex to make the Chase. NASCAR figured out the charade and kicked Truex out of the Chase. That resulted in sponsor NAPA, having been with Waltrip since 2001, leaving the organization (and almost NASCAR) and Truex was left without a ride.

Both last season and this season the team has been average at best, running mid to late 20’s each weekend. This past week saw Toyota be non-committal when asked about MWR’s future, along with longtime supporter Aaron’s on if they would return to the #55 next season.

For Waltrip, he’s a goofy pitchman whose antics helped keep sponsors happy while his performance was in the toilet, but that act I believe has finally worn off. While he’ll still have his gig as FOX Sports talking head, with Kauffman leaving (with Clint Bowyer), it’s hard to believe he has the finances to continue, much less the desire to keep his team afloat.

Commentary: FOX Bets On Wrong Horse In Broadcast Booth

News broke on Thursday that Jeff Gordon will be joining FOX to call Sprint Cup Series races in 2016. Joining him in the booth will be Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip, two originals from when FOX started with NASCAR in 2001. That means Gordon is replacing Larry McReynolds, who will be discarded to the Hollywood Hotel like an empty pizza box.

When I first read the news, I thought “wow what a great pick up of Gordon.” While rough around the edges, I think with more experience this season calling some races he can be something good in the booth. Then it sunk in that the number one reason I don’t like FOX races will remain. That being Darrell Waltrip.

Flashback to 2001 when Waltrip entered the booth for the first time with FOX (can go prior to this when he moonlighted on TNN prior to this) and Waltrip was a breath of fresh air. He was funny, he told stories, and he tried to relate to the average fan. That was great 14 years ago, now it’s just a tired shtick. FOX had the good sense in putting Digger down awhile back, I figured they had the good sense to put old DW down. I guess I was wrong.

All you have to do is just watch the start of a race a hear Waltrip say “boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing!” Nothing says professional sports league like a commentator who uses gibberish words to signal the start of the race. Just watch a football game and listen for Jim Nance to say “whoooooooooo let’s go footballing!” just as the opening kickoff happens.

If you can get past the gibberish, you still have to deal with Waltrip’s obvious bias for some drivers. It’s almost like he’s paid by the number of times he mentions “Dale Earnhardt Jr” or “Danica Patrick.” Then you have the (major) conflict of interest when it comes to his brother, Michael’s team. Never is that team in the wrong for anything it does because that’s his baby brother’s team.

The worst part about this is McReynolds getting the shaft and being sent to be in the looney bin with Chris Myers and Michael Waltrip. And by looney bin, I mean Hollywood Hotel, which shouldn’t be called that since they sent Jeff Hammond off to pasture after last season. McReynolds might have butchered the English language on a daily basis, but his points was facts based and usually correct. He added the right amount of humor and seriousness to the broadcast, whereas Waltrip acts like the dopy sidekick.

Looking over the release one last time there is a slight glimmer of hope, there is no mention of Andy Peetre. This year FOX is using Peetre as a “rules expert” to chime in when there’s a question about a rule. Digger wins as the dumbest thing FOX has pushed on NASCAR fans, but this “rules expert” position is second to him. Peetre literally adds nothing to the broadcast other than to offer Mike Joy bathroom breaks during the broadcast.

Like most things in NASCAR, FOX is taking the two steps ahead, one step back approach to their broadcast booth. Thank goodness NASCAR fans have the option of MRN or PRN to listen while watching the races on mute.

You’re Doing It Wrong NASCAR Fans On Twitter

I cannot speak on authority on how to solicit a response from a NASCAR driver on Twitter because mine have been far and very few between. What I can tell you is sometimes fans can be inconsiderate and ask questions at terrible times. Such is the case earlier today when Joey Logano tweeted out well wishes to Steve Byrnes. What happened next was a young fan decided that was a great tweet to piggy bank and see how often Logano signs merchandise at the Team Penske shop.

wpid-2015-04-08-14.25.46.png.pngAll I can say for this is a big time Jim Utter inspired SMH. Is it so hard to write a new tweet not piggy banking off of one giving well wishes to a gentleman who was just checked into ICU? Today’s lesson is that it is that hard.

Question Marks Heading Into Atlanta Over Replacement Drivers

The season opening Daytona 500 is over, but there will be many questions to answer in the coming days for the next event on the schedule. Ironically it involves both of the Busch brothers and polar opposite reasons.

The elder, Kurt, has been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR because of the findings of a local Delaware court to issue a restraining order to keep himself away from his ex-girlfriend. Busch appealed the initial suspension by NASCAR, but the appeals panel upheld the decision and for now Kurt will be in limbo waiting to see when NASCAR might let him back into the sport.

To cover on Sunday, the Stewart-Haas Racing team tabbed Regan Smith. Smith did good job finishing 16th. For Atlanta and beyond, the team has been mum on who might take the reins. This isn’t their first rodeo in dealing with a driver being out, they had to make arraignments prior for Tony Stewart the last two years. My guess is since the Xfinity Series schedule matches up with the Sprint Cup Series schedule, they will have Smith continue to drive for them until Busch is brought back. A wildcard here might be Jeff Burton, who filled in for Stewart last season, and is available until the second half of the season when his new television contract kicks in when NBC takes over.

I like the idea of the team, with its strong Hendrick Motorsports ties, putting in Chase Elliott to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at Atlanta next weekend. It would the perfect setting for Elliott, who grew up down the road in Dawsonville, Georgia, to get his first race under his belt.

For the younger brother Kyle, he is out indefinitely after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left ankle. No time table has been announced, but taking in both those injuries, I suspect he will be out of commission for about two months minimum. Thinking back to when Tony Stewart broke his leg in August of 2013, he was out the final three months of the season. He was not even back in a racecar until February of 2014, so that time table for Busch might be even longer.

Who might replace Busch is an interesting question. The team had Matt Crafton fill in on Sunday, with Crafton finishing 18th in his series debut. With gaps in the Truck schedule, he could be a worthy fill in. Looking at the drivers in house for Joe Gibbs Racing you have Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez who could fit the bill. The only question I have with both is being rookies to even the Xfinity Series, would Gibbs rely on them to carry the 18 team with Busch on the sidelines.

A wildcard in this might be Michael McDowell, who’s running for Leavine Family Racing, but they are not expected to attempt all the races. He could possibly pop in when LFR is not planning on running. Anyone who is picked would need Toyota ties, in my opinion, which is why Crafton lined up very well for the team on such short notice.

I would expect both teams to try and line up one driver to take on the schedule instead of picking drivers each week. Who exactly they go with, we’ll have to wait and see what is announced for Atlanta and beyond.