Monday, December 21, 2015

Is God Asleep?

As we approach another Christmas, it does not seem that all is calm or bright.  A terrorist shooting in Paris has left a hundred plus dead, and even closer to home, a married terrorist couple dropped their baby off with grandma and then killed 14 people in San Bernardino.  For the hundreds, or maybe thousands of those who mourn the loss of their friends and families in these tragedies, Merry Christmas sounds like a meaningless platitude.  We ask ourselves, “If there is a God, where is He?  Is He asleep?” 

King David had the same thought when things were not going well for his kingdom.  In Psalm 44, David prays “Why are you sleeping, O Lord?  Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!   Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”  Many of us feel like this today.  Even if our loved ones were not killed by terrorists, we still face the stress of this life each and every day.  We mourn for loved ones who have died; we care for family members who are in the hospital.  Some of us are walking alongside friends struggling by financial problems, addictions and loss of jobs.  We live in a dark broken world, and sometimes we feel alone.

But the good news is that God is not asleep.  His armies of angels are at war with evil, and He has sent His great Commander, the Lord of Hosts to lead in this battle against the dark forces that seek to destroy us.  This is the season that we celebrate the birth of this Mighty Warrior who first came to us as an illegitimate baby, born of a scared teenage single-mother in a dirty manger.  This unlikely babe however was not just any child.  He was the Son of God – He was God Himself – Immanuel, God with Us. 

The Star Wars films use the story of Christ as a central theme.  Luke Skywalker was the unlikely hero, born of a widow, on the remote desert planet of Tatooine.  But he was not any child, but the chosen warrior-knight who would save the Universe in the final battle between good and evil. 

The Christmas story however is the true story of the God of the Universe who came to Earth to give himself up as a sacrificial lamb without blemish, and die on a cross to pay the price for our sins in order that we could be spared the wrath of a Just God.  Let us remain steadfast in the promise that God is not asleep, but that He is actively involved in the Universe.  Let us celebrate Christmas in this Light – The Light of the World.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Junior Wins Phoenix, Gordon, Truex, Harvick and Busch to Battle at Homestead

AVONDALE, AZ – With Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory at the rain drenched race in the desert of Arizona, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex will compete at Homestead next weekend for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Car Title.  The race was delayed by seven hours due to the rain, then cut short to 219 laps with Earnhardt Jr. at the lead.  There were many sad faces when the race was called, including Carl Edwards and Joey Logano, whose chances at the championship were dashed with the call.

Earnhardt’s win was serendipitously won when on lap 195 his crew brought him in for a fuel stop.  Then Ricky Stenhouse and Joey Gas wrecked in Turn 3 bringing out the second caution of the race.  Earnhardt, while still on pit row, crossed the scoring line just ahead of Kevin Harvick.  When the rest of the lead cars pitted under the caution, Earnhardt was able to claim the lead position.  The race proceeded under yellow for the remaining laps leaving Earnhardt uncontested for the remainder of the race.

When asked about his victory, ““We had an idea that the rain was in the area, but all the circumstances that played out at the end of the race are just kind of luck, I think,” said Earnhardt.  He added, “I want to give (crew chief) Greg (Ives) a lot of credit, and the guys.  They gave us a good enough car to come here and qualify well (third). I think the reason why we won this race is because of the way we qualified to give ourselves a position to be up front all night.  When something like this quirky happens we were able to capitalize. It’s a rain-shortened win, but my guys are very proud of it because of how the car ran all weekend and we put ourselves in this position.”

Kevin Harvick, who had dominated the race leading 143 laps, just was not there when it most counted.  His second place finish kept him in line for the championship to be determined at Homestead, but another win would have been nice.   “Yeah, it's kind of bittersweet,” Harvick acknowledged. “The car just really performed well today, and we were able to lead a lot of laps, and just really proud of the guys for the decisions that they made overnight to get that last little bit out of the car today, and how it performed was really good.” 

Though Joey Logano finished on the podium, he needed a win to stay in the Chase for the championship.  “It’s hard to play the race with rain in the area,” Logano said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you just hope there’s another shot. You hope that there’s a restart and if two of them slip up and you’re able to put it three-wide on the bottom, or do something like that -- but just didn’t ever have the opportunity there at the end.

One of the most exciting stories at the end of the 2015 season is of course Jeff Gordon who has a chance to retire from NASCAR with a Championship title.  “It is going to take everything to go win that Championship next week,” Gordon said.  “ This team has it. We definitely have it in us. I don’t know if we are going to show all the speed that we have this weekend, but next week we are ready to get it done.”  Tune in next week and find out if Gordon can do it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lewis Hamilton Crowned F1 World Champion

AUSTIN, TX – It turned out to be a great day for a race, but that was not apparent on Saturday or Sunday morning.  As the remnants of tropical Hurricane Patricia dropped torrential rain on the Circuit of the Americas, Saturday practice sessions were cancelled, and instead, fans were given an unprecedented time with Formula 1 drivers and crews.  Then, Sunday morning, the rains did not appear to let up until around noon.  By the scheduled 1:25 PM start of the race, the clouds receded showing some sunshine allowing the start of the USGP without safety car – and what a race it was!

With some water remaining on the track, the cars started the race on intermediate tires.  As it turned out, the lack of practice time left the teams unprepared for what was about to unfold, and tire strategy was thrown out the door.  Some of the drivers had to use all three tire types to optimize their lap times as the track dried out. "It was very difficult," said Toto Wolff of Mercedes-Petronas, "So many decisions to make, so many marginal calls, with the virtual safety car and safety car. I guess, at the end, we had the luck on our side.”  The danger was clear following Williams’ and Sauber’s early decision to put on slicks causing slow laptimes for Bottas and an incident requiring Nasr to pit for a new front wing.

From the very start, it was clear that his race was to be exciting.  Nico Rosberg had claimed the starting position for the race, but at the first turn, Hamilton pushed Nico off the track and sped off in first place.  Nico could only manage 4th place at this point.  The Red Bull cars showed very good speed at the beginning as Ricciardo was able to reel in and pass both Mercedes cars claiming the lead.  Then on lap 18, Hamilton and the Red Bulls came in to switch to slicks, but the speed was not there and Rosberg, still on intermediates sped away.

After an incident where Ericcson stopped on the track, Vettel brought his Ferrari in for tires preferring the medium rubber gambling on the possibility that he could go the rest of the way.  Then Haulkenberg and Ricciardo collided bring out the virtual safety car once more. This gave Mercedes the chance to bring one of their drivers in for tires.  Choosing Rosberg over the now leader Lewis, the Mercedes pair were a formidable team.  Vettel  challenged Vettel but was not able to catch the Silver Arrows.

The final start left 10 laps to the finish, and Hamilton held all competitors at bay, winning the race and championship.  A dejected Rosberg came in 2nd followed by Vettel in third.  Team Boss Niki Lauda must be very excited with Mercedes clinching both the driver and Manufacturer Championships.  With rumors that he is being considered for F1 boss, what better way to leave Mercedes.

Seeing the excitement of this race, I hope that F1 considers the idea of less practice laps for the teams.  Charting the race with a level of unknowns makes for wonderful excitibg racing as opposed to machines running in Teutonic reliability.  Since we lost the exciting sounds of 20,000 rpm engines, maybe some exciting racing can be had.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lowndes/Richards of Holden Racing Team Claim Victory At "The Mountain"

BATHURST, AUSTRALIA – The sleepy town of Bathurst in New South Wales Australia comes to life once a year for the run of the epic 1,000 mile race known as the Bathurst 1000.  Mount Panorama Circuit is one of the most fearsome tracks in the world sometimes referred to as the “Blue Hell.”  This year was a memorable year with previous records being smashed.  Team Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes and co-driver Steven Richards won the race finishing in the shortest time on record.  This was Craig’s 6th win at the mountain.  Teammate Jamie Whincup, was the fastest man on the mountain turning the fastest qualifying lap of 2 min 4.9 sec, and a new race lap of 2 min 7.1 sec.

Unfortunately for Whincup, he managed to finish only 18th due to a pit-lane penalty levied on the Holden driver after he passed the safety car following a crash by Scott Pye midway through the race.  No telling at this point to why Whincup made such an elementary error, but he also disregarded team instructions to pit during the caution period.  "Scotty Pye was in the fence and then I understood why we came in two laps early,” commented teammate Lowndes. “I didn't understand why Jamie didn't follow us in.  But look, we'll analyse that this week and make sure that it doesn't become a problem in the future and move on.”

The scariest tale of the weekend was Team Pepsi driver Chaz Mostert’s horrifying crash during qualifying ( ).  As Mostert was approaching “the Dipper,”  he missed his apex on turn 16, grazing the wall and ricocheting him nearly head on into the outside wall of turn 17.  Mostert’s car slammed into the track marshal’s safety enclosure resulting in injuries to three of the officials.  "My biggest fear was for the safety of the marshals but to hear none were seriously injured is a big relief," Mostert said in a team statement, "I'm really sorry for the team as it was my error that put us out and also destroyed a car.  I just lost my racing line due to a bit of sun glare and glanced the wall.  I just want to say thanks to everyone in the V8 Supercars medical team for their care following my accident today.  From there I was a passenger and took some pretty big hits."  Mostert suffered a broken leg and wrist requiring surgery.

Another interesting story at the Bathurst was the all-female Harvey Norman Supergirls entry of Indy-driver Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie.  The girls did not receive exactly a hero’s welcome with V8 legend Dick Johnson commenting that it was a million-to-one chance of them finishing the 166-lap race.  Adding insult-to-injury, Gracie’s own Ford teammate earned a $25,000 fine for referring to the entry as “the pussy wagon.”  The race did not go so well for the girls when on lap 15, Gracie stuffed the Ford into the wall after driving through some fluid left by the Volvo of David Wall.  After a long stint in the garage, de Silvestro emerged and was able to complete the remaining 108 laps of the race.  "It's a bit disappointing," said Gracie who will return to Bathurst with de Silvestro next year.  "We were off to a great start, had a great strategy and I caught the guys pretty quickly, commented Gracie.  “But unfortunately I was the first who caught the oil and found the wall."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Porsche GTLM Pulls Upset at The Petit Le Mans

BRASELTON, GA – It was a remarkable end to the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta this weekend.  The rain soaked conditions made it very difficult for the blisteringly fast Prototype racers allowing the GTLM-class Porsche 911RSR of Tandy/Pilet/Lietz to the overall win.  This is the first time in the history of this race that a GT-car won the overall race.  The venerable 911, with its rear engine configuration and amazing reliability once again proved itself to be a daunting competitor.  Who would have thought that a car layout conceived in 1964 could still be a motorsports contender in 2015?

Scott Pruett, driver of the #01 Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley DP-car, summed it up best, “We weren’t racing, we were just trying to survive.” Second place went to another GTLM-class car, the BMW Z4 of Edwards/Luhr/Klingman.  The podium was completed by Action Express Corvette DP of Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Bourdais, the highest placing DP-car of the race, and giving Borbosa and Fittipaldi once again, the season championship.  Pruett’s Riley came in fourth.

It was a particularly harsh race for the open-cockpit Protoype Challenge cars.  The highest placing PC-car was the 52 Oreca FLM09 piloted by Gausch/Kimber-Smith/Palmer with Katech power, coming in 14th overall.  Said Kimber-Smith about his stint in the open-cockpit car: “I don’t think I’ve ever been that wet in my life, even in the shower.”  The 52 Oreca also captured the PC championship.

GT-Daytona looked like it might see the first woman champion with 007 TRG Aston-Martin driver Christina Nielsen having a 1-point lead coming into Atlanta.  However, the win went to the 73 Porsche 911 GT-America of Lindsey/Pumpelly/Snow with Christina a distant 9th.  The GT-D championship went to Bill Sweedler/Bell/Segal in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ferrari And Vettel Show Their Mettle In Singapore

SINGAPORE - It was a good race for Sebastien Vettel and Ferrari.  After winning the top grid position, Vettel led the race from pole to podium.  The Mercedes teams were not quite on their optimum pace with some signs of struggle with tires on the multi-corner track that did not benefit from the high-speed silver arrows.  In fact, the ever-reliable Benz of Nico Rosberg wasn’t causing his first DNF of the season.  The day also proved good for Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull who turned in their finest performance of the season.

Vettel charged from the pole and showed the prowess of the Ferrari as he was 3 seconds ahead of Ricciardo’s Red Bull after the first lap, increasing it to 5.3 sec in the opening laps.  Ricciardo appeared to be gaining on Vettel until contact between Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenburg brought out the safety car allowing all the leaders to pit for tires and fuel.  Any possible tire advantage that Red Bull had was lost.  Vettel appeared to take the stint after the restart easy, possibly realizing the tire advantage of the Red Bulls.  However, after the safety car again came out due to a spectator on the track, Vettel had a clear 21-lap run to the checkered flag.  Kimi Raikkonen took the final spot on the podium for Ferrari.

After the race, Vettel commented “I think Daniel had a very good race, looking after his tires very well, which made it a bit tactical towards the end with the stints. Second stint I was dictating the pace. Obviously around here it's not so easy to overtake, so I was using that. And from then, at some point, chipping away, trying to control the gap. Fortunately that worked. It's obviously a great day; we had a really great weekend, thanks to the team.”

The race results have moved Vettel within 51 points of Lewis Hamilton and 7 points off number 2, Nico Rosberg. "If we have more weekends like this, then yes," said 28-year-old German Vettel when asked if Ferrari can take the fight to Mercedes in the remaining six races. "All we have to do is look after ourselves, maximum attack and then what they do is not in our hands. “We have a small chance, maybe we can make the impossible possible, and we will definitely go for it."

In other F1 news, it is rumored that Jensen Button will announce his retirement at the next race in Suzuka.  After 16 years, a F1 Championship, 15 race wins and 50 podium finishes, Button will reportedly drive in the World Endurance Championship and host the revamped Top Gear.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oh Captain My Captain...

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA – The season did not end that well for The Captain.  Roger Penske was close to making history Sunday hoping to be the first team owner to win the NASCAR Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar championship.  With his three IndyCar drivers all eligible for the Championship, including Montoya with a 77 point lead, it seemed to be a sure-thing.  But in racing, as in football, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Mr. Penske had a bit of simple advice to Juan Pablo, “One thing I’ve said to Juan – he’s run a great season, he’s been tough and he’s been competitive and he needs to bring the same playbook here on Sunday.”  Unfortunately, Montoya was not able to heed the advice and ended up colliding with teammate Will Power on a restart on lap 39 sending both into the garage.  After Montoya took on a new front wing assembly the Montoya and Power dropped  to 23rd and 22nd.

Scott Dixon running in ninth place at the time of the incident saw the opportunity afforded by the Penske mishap, turned on the juice and took the lead on lap 51, in the 85-lap race.  Dixon came into the weekend mourning  the loss of his dear friend Justin Wilson, but focused.  “This is what we came here for this weekend,” Dixon said. “It was a long shot but we knew we had shot at it. All of us this week raced with heavy hearts. Justin Wilson and everyone in his family are in our thoughts. He is such a great guy and that made it hard this week.”

What did Montoya have to say?  “We had a good car. We had a good start and, you know, we did everything we needed to do at the beginning,” he said. “Will overshot and I was fighting with Newgarden, we shot the corner, we got inside and Will cut across and I was there, and we touched and that was it. We came from behind and did our best, just wasn't enough. It's tough there, tires are going off, and it's one of those days. As I told you, it could happen, and it happened. It sucks, but when you make double points the last race in a road course and you change the tire and you do everything you did for this weekend and you put so many variables, it doesn't even matter what you do all year.”

Penske lamented “These guys were racing. It was an accident. It looked like Juan wanted to get inside and Will didn’t see him. At the end of the day it’s over and we move on. We had a great season.”  At least that was what he said publicly…

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More Craziness At The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, NY -   The craziness continues to Watkins Glen.   Kevin Harvick, leading the last lap of the race, runs out of gas two turns from victory allowing pole-sitter Joey Logano his first career road-course win.  The road race turned into another fuel mileage competition as the field ran the final 30 laps under the green-flag.  "I'm still just trying to catch my breath," Logano said after climbing from his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. "I was really excited after that one. I was running down Harvick there for a little bit, and once I got close to him, he started to pick up his pace a little bit, which was good, because I needed him to run out of gas.”  What made the win even more impressive was Logano fighting back after a pit-lane violation required a mandatory stop-and-go penalty.

Kyle Busch ran a conservative race, yet managed to come in second, just seconds ahead of a coasting Kevin Harvick.  To qualify for The Chase, Busch has simply to finish the final 4 races of the regular season, so he does not need to unnecessary risks at this time.  "I think that was some of (crew chief) Adam (Stevens’) worry, too," said Busch "We couldn't afford running out of gas like we did last week and taking home an even worse finish this week, because of how many cars finish on the lead 
lap typically at a road course.”

Tony Stewart had a poor week at the Glen.  Two days before the race, the family of Kevin Ward Jr. filed a wrongful death suit against Stewart for the tragic Sprint Car accident that killed Ward.  Stewart looked very good in qualifying as he clinched the third starting position, and was running top ten for much of the race’s first half.  On lap 50, any glimmer of hope was dashed as a suspension failure ended his weekend, leaving him dead last.

In a bit of sad news, Buddy Baker, one of the legends of NASCAR, passed away Monday from lung cancer.  In a 35 year career, Buddy won 19 races out of 699 starts with 38 poles and 202 top-five finishes.  Buddy was the first driver to exceed 200 mph during a test session at the Talladega super-speedway.  Buddy raced for Petty Enterprises in 1971 and 1972.  The King, Richard Petty issued the following statement. "Buddy was always wide open and that's the way he raced and lived his life. He was always full of energy. He was a person you wanted to be around because he always made you feel better. He raced with us, shared his stories with us and became our friend. Buddy loved the sport and he made a lasting impression on the sport on the track, in the television booth and on the radio. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family at this time." RIP

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

At The Tricky Triangle Crazy Is Crazy Does

POCONO, PENNSYLVANIA – Crazy is as crazy does.  The Pocono 400 sure saw some strange happenings this past Sunday.  With seven caution periods in the first half of the race, it appeared that it was to be a long grueling race, but then the next 80 laps only had one caution.  When you add the fuel management to the mix the top three cars – Logano, Busch and Truex – all ran out of gas. 

 In a race like this, staying power is what is needed, and Matt Kenseth seemed to have the biggest on Sunday; as was evident when he passed sputtering race leader Kyle Busch on the final lap to clinch his first win at the “Tricky Triangle.”  “I never thought I would ever win at Pocono,” exclaimed Matt Kenseth, “ and I never ever thought I would win a fuel mileage race. We did both today.”

After a 4-race winning streak, Joe Gibbs driver Kyle Busch led the race for 19 laps, including the final lap when he ran out of gas.  When Kyle was asked about the poor turn of events, he said “Man that is a bummer…We went for broke today and came up a little bit short.”  It turned out that when NASCAR allowed the race to go 63 laps without a caution period, a few of the cars did not have enough fuel to make it.

It is odd though that Kenseth and Keselowski made their final fuel stop at the same time as Busch, Logano and Truex, yet the latter three ran out of gas.  It appears that engine efficiency, driving style, and whether or not the fuel man was able to completely top off the tank played an important role.  But I’m sure that Mr. Gibbs was happy that Kenseth was the beneficiary of the battle.

Kyle Busch only has 5 races to clinch a spot in The Chase.  He is currently 13 points out of 30th place.  Kyle’s work is cut out for him.