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Pedley: Time To Describe Some Nouns

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, December 12 2011

Is David Ragan the right driver for the open job at Penske Racing? (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Race fans, it’s an Adjective Day…

Curious – A lot of signs point to the hiring of David Ragan by Penske Racing. The job, of course, being to take the place of Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Dodge.

And a good job it is: The previous driver was in the Chase three of the last four years, the car won races and was a threat to win just about every time out last season. Penske Racing, after years of spiking both high and low on the success-o-meter, finally seemed in 2011 to have found stability and a place on the top shelf for both of its two Sprint Cup teams.

And a nice guy Ragan is: Polite, quiet, hard working. He is a sponsor’s dream.

But he’s also had trouble finding Victory Lane. In a very good car and on a very good team and in five full seasons, Ragan won one race. In 182 Sprint Cup starts, he had 12 top-five finishes.

Maybe there were hidden circumstances for Ragan’s blahs at Roush. Maybe the change of scene is just what Ragan needs to unjam his Cup career. Maybe Roger Penske and Tim Cindric can find go button and push it.

But it just seems that that team, a team so respected and loaded with winning stuff, could attract a

Kurt Busch celebrates the first road victory of his career. It came at Infineon Raceway in 2011. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

proven winner. A driver who has, perhaps, won a championship. A driver who already has won dozens of Cup races. A driver would be a threat to win every time out. A driver like, well, Kurt Busch.

Provocative – Wonder what would have happened had Kurt Busch “wigged out” early in the 2011 season instead of in the final race. Or, at least, been caught on video wigging out earlier in the season.

Would Clint Bowyer be in the No. 22 Dodge next season? Would Carl Edwards be thanking all the folks at Shell, Pennzoil, Penske Racing, Lennox, AAA, Goodyear, and, who did I leave out, oh, Dodge? Would Juan Pablo Montoya be pushing slower cars out of the way with a puss-yellow Challenger? Would Steve Addington be on a Penske pit box next year?

Puzzling – Del Worsham wins the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2011 and then announces he is retiring. Worsham is not old. He’s 41. He is 20 years young than John Force. He had labored 21 years in the NHRA to get his first championship and then retires. He has a great job on a top Al-Anabi Racing team.

Worsham said he just wants to go out on top. I guess that is kind of a neat sentiment, but another kind of neat sentiment – a seemingly highly gratifying sentiment – would be enjoying at least another NHRA season as The Man. You know, taking a victory lap.

At Ponoma last month, Worsham got out of his car, thanked everybody, talked about how great it felt to

Former Al-Anabi Racing teammates Del Worsham and Larry Dixon. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

win the championship, raised the Wally and also talked about getting ready for 2012. He did not sound like somebody who was about to retire.

Now comes a report that his teammate, Larry Dixon, the 2010 Funny Car champion, might be leaving Al-Anabi as well.

Hmmmm…

Sucky – Once again, Jay Frye finds himself facing an uncertain racing future. Frye, flat out, is a top notch administrator who has been forced by circumstances, to hook up with hucksters over the years. Dirt bags like that, ahem, resort “owner”. Like the mutant aliens from Austria.

It would have been interesting to see what Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis and Red Bull would have done if they had stayed with Frye for 2012. And if the sponsorship situation would have been stable enough to attract a Clint Bowyer to the seat of the other Frye car. And if the Red Bull folks were not into micro-managing and would turn NASCAR racing decisions over to their NASCAR person.

Instead, Frye is left to either fold or fund from his own pocket – the latter of which he did back with his former team.

Not At All Sucky – The 2012 Rolex 24 is shaping up to be major fun.

The addition of Audi and Ferrari to the GT fields, the new Corvette Prototype, participation by a large group of top flight road racing drivers should make the on-track portion of the 24 a humdinger.

But even more not sucky are events surrounding the 24’s 50th anniversary. Great people and machinery

The new Corvette.

from the past are being brought in to celebrate America’s preeminent sports car endurance race’s birthday.

Wheeled out for display will be the greatest race car ever made and raced: The Gulf Porsche 917. Also, the Ford GT, Lolas and Marches. Oh my.

If you go to Daytona for the event, bring your camera.

Regrettable – Didn’t buy stock companies that make Ugg boots and and North Face clothing.

Debatable – In 2112, which pair of brothers will be looked back upon with most reverence by race fans; the Busch brothers or the Dillon brothers?

It could depend on how future generations define the term “classy”. Who knows?; If things keep going the way they are, pointing at one’s butt while standing on the track at Bristol as the field goes past may be viewed as the epitome of class in 2112.

I really like what I see of Ty and Austin Dillon. It reminds me of what I saw in the Busch brothers years ago. Loaded with driving potential. But, mirror image in terms of social skills.

Shocking – Really? People buy their spouses new $50,000 Lexuses for Christmas. Really? With red bows on top? Really?

Awkward – Every time I go back and re-watch or re-read accounts from the NASCAR banquet, the

Crew chief Darian Grubb and former boss Tony Stewart. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

squirms begin when the Darian Grubb stuff comes on or up. What a bizarre position to be in; Championship crew chief hanging with the guy/team who dumped him.

It was kind of good to see Grubb not plaster a thick layer of sugar on the situation. It was good to see him let a bit of shock and disappointment and bitterness creep through. It gets very old watching people have their legs cut out from under them, and then go on to thank the people who wielded the bloodied chain saw because others would think that would be the “classy” thing to do.

Diminishing – The IndyCar Series could be running out of left-turn-0nly venues at which to race.

Word came down last week that Las Vegas, in the wake of suitability concerns at the high-banked 1.5-mile oval, has been removed from the 2012 schedule. And as of this morning, dickering between the series and Texas Motor Speedway is threatening that date.

Should that deal, which is all about sanctioning fees, fall through, IndyCar would have only three ovals on its 2012 schedule; Indianapolis, Auto Club and Iowa.

There has been muffled talk about the series returning to a couple of International Speedway Corporation tracks – Kansas, Phoenix, Michigan and Chicagoland speedways – but some ill will still exists between those places and the series. Plus, Kansas will be revamping its track next year to a Vegas-style graduated banking layout so the issue of suitability will be brought into play there.

Then there also just seems to be a general loss of interest in IndyCar oval races.

Perhaps the new chassis and new rules will fix some of the problems, but IndyCar, a great series with an interesting 2012 in the offing, just keeps fumbling for a place in American racing’s heart.

Questionable – Finally, how many Formula 1 races will be held in the United States in 2012? None, one or two?

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, December 12 2011
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