Sunday, November 21, 2010

Drive for Five is DONE!!

Well, NASCAR fans, you wanted excitement - you got it! The 48 team will win it any way you want it. Repeat, you say? Easy. Never-been-done-before threepeat? Oh, we're just getting warmed up. You want it old-school? Sure, we can pull out another Cup under the old championship format. More down-to-the-wire action? Oh. Hell. Yeah.

I could do the usual thing of recapping what a great yet stressful year it's been and how exciting the Chase was, but what I really want to do, on this the day of the 48's fifth championship, is to gloat. Specifically, I would like to extend my index finger (INDEX finger...I'm not that mean...or related to Kyle Busch) and jump up and down in a non-orderly fashion yelling, "WHERE'S YOUR DRIVE FOR FIVE NOW?!?!" all in the general direction of one Jeff Gordon. So if you'll excuse me.

...Ahhh, much better. Yessir, if there was one thing that REALLY kept me on the edge of my seat all year and had me hoping to gosh that Jimmie would win the championship, it was incentive of beating Jeff Gordon to the Drive for Five and rubbing the fact that we did it all in a row right in his face. I've never been a Gordon fan, but I really caught the bug earlier in the year when Jimmie and Jeff were having a bit of a back-and-forth, and ever since then it's been my deepest, darkest hope that Jimmie would give him the ultimate touché at the end of the year. Well, mission accomplished.  Thank you, boys. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.

Girly moment: did you see Chad on the stage after the race holding Jimmie's daughter? Was that cute or what?! I have to admit I was watching that more than the Cup proceedings at that moment. I'm so glad Genevieve got to be there for one of Jimmie's wins, too!

Now that we're on a warmer and fuzzier track, thanks for another fun year of racing, guys. I honestly don't know what I used to do before this (and hockey). Congratulations on the championship, and thanks especially for winning at Las Vegas this spring while I was there to see it. Just know that I'll remember these years just as long as you boys do, and I've enjoyed the heck out of being a part of history. Here's to five more years (at least) just like these!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hit the Road, Jack(man)

:cue creepy horror music...wait, is that redundant?:  I know I haven't updated in eons, but you KNOW I couldn't just sit here and zip my lip about the pit crew change.

Predictably, I'm going to defend Chad's decision. Yes, I think he did the right thing. The crew hasn't been up to snuff all year, and they've had plenty of chances to pick it up, but they haven't. I think that's the main reason I support this: it wasn't just an off-day for them; it was the final straw in a whole hay bale of screw-ups that broke the camel's back.

I also like that they're making changes now instead of waiting until the season's over just so they wouldn't hurt anybody's feelings. If improvement is not an option at this point, and you've got a championship on the line, you need to do what you have to do to ensure a win. It's not like they're taking a risk - the 24 crew has (obviously) been working together all year and have proven themselves to be fast. Now, if Chad had decided to just switch a few of the 48 crew guys out for some new ones at this point in the season, you bet I'd be questioning the heck out of that move, but here you've got a whole crew of guys who are used to working together on a daily basis. No prob. Does it look desperate? Maybe a little. But hey, if they've got a weakness, and it's this late in the season, I'd rather they try something drastic to fix it than just sit back and watch the championship slip away.

Now, as for this "win and lose as a group" stuff... I think there are two qualities that set Hendrick apart from the rest: their relaxed, positive attitude and the frank, business-like environment at the shop and the track. I am a firm believer in the power of working in a positive atmosphere; nobody benefits from added stress. If I had the choice between working at Penske or Hendrick, I know which one I'd choose, and it wouldn't be just because HMS has won more Cups recently.

Moreover, I think what enables them to maintain a relaxed, team-player atmosphere is that second quality, professionalism. Hendrick's goal is to win, and if a team member isn't contributing to that goal, they can expect to be replaced. It's nothing personal; it's just how things have to be in order to get the job done, and everybody knows that. This is all to say that if you're going to win and lose as a team, first you have to be a team. If you're not able to go the extra mile and pick yourself up when you know you haven't been doing your absolute best, there's just no room for you on the team. If you're doing your best, then yes, you win and lose as a team, but if there are improvements to be made and you can't come through with them, then you're not really functioning as a team to start with, in my opinion.

Do I feel bad for the 48 guys? Yeah. That's gotta suck to know you and your entire crew just got replaced by someone else's, and it must especially sting for the members of the crew who have been there long enough to have 4 Cup trophies sitting on their mantles and who know they're giving 100%, but they've also got to know that it was the right thing to do at the time to ensure Jimmie a good finish and possibly a championship.