by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 1, 2011 7:46 am UTC No Comments
Gordon had gone 66 races without seeing victory lane. Not a long time for some of the sports veteran drivers but an eternity for the four-time Cup champion. Interestingly Gordon hasn’t won a championship as a driver since he became a Cup car owner. Gordon is part owner of the #48 team that has won five championships since he won his last.
There was a time in the sport that the cries of “anyone but Gordon” were heard loud and clear well before the statement came to be used for Gordon’s protege Jimmie Johnson. But with the long winless streak now behind him the question is has Gordon moved into the next level of fan recognition?
There seems to be a point in a lot of athlete’s careers where they move from a polarizing figure to the beloved veteran and it seems that Gordon may have made that move with his win this past week in Phoenix. Other drivers have been there; from Darrell Waltrip to Rusty Wallace to Dale Earnhardt, Sr., drivers who early in their careers had a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” persona. Then a defining moment moves them into a new realm of fan acceptance.
Many times it revolves around a single win, championship or moment after suffering months or years of toil. Hardship and lack of success for a period of time after a career full of triumphs somehow makes the fans find a new respect for their former nemesis. The phenomenon isn’t relegated to the sport of racing; but can be found throughout the sporting world. Athletes like Reggie Jackson, Brett Favre and Jimmy Conners all have seen the acceptance of fans at a new level once their heyday has been completed.
Gordon may be beyond another championship; but never again will you hear fans bemoan him his victories. Gordon has proven once again that he can win a race and for NASCAR fans a smattering of them as he winds down his career will be just fine, thank you.
As an aside–Is it just me; or does Jeff look a lot like Ray Evernham in the above picture?
photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerFebruary 17, 2011 10:29 am UTC 1 Comment
Formerly (and maybe should still be, but that’s another blog) the Twin 125s, the unique way in which the field is set for the Daytona 500 will be run today at 2 PM on SPEED. Since the Daytona 500′s inception the qualifying races have been part of the Daytona experience. Not only do you get a preview of what Sunday will be like, but you get so many great stories to last until Sunday. The transfer spot, the underdogs, the surprises. Dale Earnhardt had the incredible streak of 10 consecutive wins in the Twin 125s from 1990 through 1999.
For racing junkies its a bonus to see cars on the track with something on the line. These races whet the appetite for Sunday’s big race. I can’t wait until they drop the green flag today.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media
by JamesJ, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
Sundays of my youth consisted of NASCAR racing and cold bottles of Mountain Dew. Thirty years later not much has changed for me. However, nearly everything has changed in NASCAR.December 29, 2009 3:52 pm UTC No Comments
Over the next several weeks we’ll be featuring car numbers in NASCAR history. We started with #50 and are working our way down the line. With each car number we’ll take a brief look at a couple stats related to the featured car number, but we’ll primarily spotlight either a driver, sponsor, car owner, manufacturer or other significant subject closely tied to the car number of the day.
I found myself with a bit of challenge for number 47. Instead of putting the spotlight on a driver named Jack with the most Cup success in the #47 (Jack Smith, who has twenty-one career wins), I’m going to direct the attention to a car owner named Jack Beebe.
Stats for cars running the #47
- Number of Races: 753
- Number of Wins: 24
- Number of Top 5s: 131
- Number of Top 10s: 258
- Number of Poles: 29
- Number of Drivers: 58
Check out current NASCAR race statistics here at On Pit Row!
Spotlight Subject: Car Owner Jack Beebe
From 1978 to 1986 car owner Jack Beebe fielded a car in 211 Cup races resulting in 2 wins, 32 top fives, and 82 top tens. In his 9 years of car ownership he employed only 5 different drivers, but he ran only one car number, the #47.
Of those 5 drivers, 4 of them are pretty well known. Can you guess who they are?
- One is now also known for his work with bobsleds.
- One was considered a “handsome” “high line runner.”
- One has a brother, and both of them won Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.
- The final driver is a roller-skating veteran who races for Jesus.
I’m betting most of you readers figured them all out except for the brothers. Am I right?
If you guessed Geoff Bodine (Bo-Dyn Bobsled project), Harry Gant, Ron Bouchard (brother is Ken Bouchard), and Morgan Shepherd, then you’re good!
Geoff Bodine’s stay in the car was the shortest of all drivers (only 3 races vs. Satch Worley’s 4 races in the Beebe owned #47). From what I’ve been able to find, Beebe was somehow in the school bus business in Connecticut prior to his venture into NASCAR and was giving Bodine his Winston Cup debut in his cars. It seems that Bodine expressed some negative comments about the Beebe organization. Bodine was let go after only 3 races, he wouldn’t return to a full time Winston Cup ride for another 3 years.
Enter driver Harry Gant. The opportunity to race for Jack Beebe’s ride would be Gant’s first full season in Winston Cup. He would contend for Rookie of the Year honors, but the rookie competition was stiff that year with Terry Labonte and eventual Rookie of the Year winner Dale Earnhardt.
Sticking with a similar pattern as Bodine and Gant, next would be rookie Ron Bouchard’s debut in Winston Cup competition. Unlike Bodine, Ron would keep the ride full time. And unlike Gant, Bouchard would claim the Rookie of the Year title. Although Ron only had one career victory, it came in grand style, at a grand track, by sneaking the win from two drivers who eventually became Winston Cup champions. The race was at Talladega and the win came down to the last turn of the last lap. Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip battled for the lead as Bouchard cut under both of them and took the win in an exciting photo finish!
In 1986 Morgan Shepherd’s name was above the driver’s window net. He would race in what would become Jack Beebe’s final 12 races in Winston Cup competition. But of those 12 races, Morgan Shepherd would take the car to 6 top 10 finishes and 1 win for Jack Beebe. The win would come at the beginning of the 1986 season at Atlanta and it would be Morgan’s second of four career victories to date, and Jack Beebe’s final victory as car owner.
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.October 15, 2009 1:20 am UTC No Comments
NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class has been announced.
There were no surprises. It would be impossible to find fault with any of the picks. The Bill France’s, Senior and Junior were included along with Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt. All are deserving to be in The Hall. But were they the best choices as the inaugural class?
Big Bill France was a shoo-in; after all with out his vision and tenacity the rest would be irrelevant. Big Bill organized a bunch of rouge drivers and track owners and made a respectable show with them. No longer would drivers have to worry whether the track owner would be heading out the pit gate with the receipts two laps before the end of the feature.
Richard Petty was and is the most recognizable name and face in NASCAR. No one will ever come close to his two-hundred career wins. Yes, it was a different era; racing two or three nights a week. But that makes the feat even more impressive. The track variety in Petty’s early years proves his versatility.
Junior Johnson was the face of NASCAR in its earliest days. He was the true NASCAR pioneer; moving from the back roads with moonshine in his trunk to a true race car driver. Johnson’s wins as a driver and then as a car owner and crew chief makes his entry into the Hall of Fame a no-brainer.
Bill France, Jr. was instrumental in bringing the sport into the modern era. The pull out of manufacturer support in the early seventies could have put the sport into a tail spin that it may have never recovered from, but Junior was instrumental in bringing in a title sponsor and moving the sport into the television era.
The inductee with the most fan support is Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt’s championships and his fan polarization made him a natural to be inducted into the first class of the Hall.
Cases could be made for others to have been in the first class, but it is impossible to find fault with this group. The next five classes of five each will be pretty easy to fill as well. Just look at the drivers who were in the sweet sixteen of ON PIT ROW’s 64 Greatest Driver Tournament to see the best of the best. Add in the off track contributors and there is no dearth of candidates to fill the classes to come.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media Inc.
by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.October 13, 2009 7:51 pm UTC 1 Comment
For those of you not in the know, the new attraction’s first five inductees (out of a previously announced pool of 25) will be announced on Wednesday at 4 PM on SPEED Channel. As NASCAR is the most recent sport out of the “big five” to create a hall of fame, the first five men to be enshrined in the hall will receive a great honor.
Now, all 25 members of that list deserve to be Hall of Famers. There’s not a soul on there that didn’t do his part to make NASCAR what it was in the past, and what it is today. Whether an old-timer like Herb Thomas or Raymond Parks, or a still-active member of the sport like Rick Hendrick or Darrell Waltrip, they all ought to go in within the first five years.
Earnhardt, obviously, has a strong case. He has 76 Sprint Cup wins as a driver, seventh on the all-time list. He has seven championships, tied with Richard Petty for the most in NASCAR Sprint Cup. His 1987 Sprint Cup season, where he had 11 wins and 24 top-10s in 29 races, may be one of the best statistical seasons in NASCAR history.
Add 21 Nationwide and 11 IROC wins as a driver, and 47 wins over NASCAR’s top three series as an owner (counting from 1995, when he first started fielding full-time Busch and SuperTruck teams, through the 2001 Daytona 500), and Earnhardt is one of the most successful figures in NASCAR history. Few can claim more successes on the track, besides perhaps the Petty family.
So where does some Northern kid like me get off on saying that the Intimidator ought to wait a couple years to get in the Hall of Fame?
Simple: I think the pioneers of the sport ought to go in first.
My other passion in life besides sports is music, and although I generally criticize the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being a letdown, they’ve gotten at least one thing right. When the Hall was first established, its voters decided to induct the founders of the genre – men like Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Fats Domino – over such dominant bands as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones.
This move ensured that memories of the founding fathers of rock and roll would be preserved, and re-introduced the public to those figures during its first few years, when those other important, but chronologically later, bands weren’t in the Hall.
Transcending boundaries of art and sport, I think the philosophy fits. NASCAR has claimed to be a tradition-oriented sport in the past, and we all know that its fans enjoy tradition. Changes to cater to the shaky West Coast crowd on television have not been well-received in the past, partially because they have messed with tradition. I contend that if NASCAR really wants to get back to its roots, the announcement of its first five Hall of Fame inductees is a key cog in the equation.
Thankfully, the voting committee is made up of many who were in the sport long before its modernization of the 1990s and 2000s, and not too many NASCAR representatives (or an overwhelming fan vote), so I’m hoping that they will share my sentiments. Inducting members chronologically, and not based on popularity, seems like the best way to do NASCAR’s rich and storied history justice.
So here’s to my ballot – Red Byron, Herb Thomas, Raymond Parks, Lee Petty, and Big Bill France – making it in the first year.
We all know that the Earnhardt fans will keep coming back until he gets in.
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowApril 7, 2009 7:39 am UTC 9 Comments
This thing that we call the NASCAR 64 Greatest Drivers Tournament at Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie has spurred some pretty good water-cooler debate. One such is that the great Dale Earnhardt Sr might not have won all those championships had the sport not lost some of his most capable competitors to tragic consequences. The second round of the One and Done bracket pairs one of Senior’s greatest early challengers with a veteran from the early years of NASCAR.
Davey Allison was a super star with Hollywood good looks and talent to spare. His 19 wins and 92 top tens in 191 starts don’t tell the story. Davey had “it”. The same “it” that Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt Jr have. He was Raybestos Rookie of the Year and two races in ’87, won the ’92 Daytona 500. Allison was killed in a helicopter crash in ’93.
Tim Flock never had a monkey in his car – at least not that we know of – like brother Fonty, but he won 39 times anyway. Tim Flock was a two-time Cup Series champion winning his first in a Hudson Hornet and his second in one of Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chryslers. His 18 wins in ’55 stood as the record until ’67. Won NASCAR’s only sports car race, in a Mercedes Benz 300 SL.
Tim Flock defeated Bob Welborn in round one while Davey Allison bested Ralph Earnhardt. Davey’s tragic story and star power are put up against Flock’s victory total. Hudson drivers seem to do well in this thing too. Interesting match up. Please leave your comments.