The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on Vacation and Road Course Ringers

By David G. Firestone

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the week before July. This is the last week I will work on The Driver Suit Blog before I go on my vacation and take my sabbatical. You know the drill, I take all of July off, and enjoy the summer here in Chicago. I have a few things planned for my time off, and I will work on some side project.

As usual, I will be attending the Route 66 Nationals, and I will do my usual article on that. I’ve got somethings planned for Route 66, but more on that later. I plan to watch racing, and hang out. I work a tiring job, and this time off is nice.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy working on The Driver Suit Blog, but I need a break, and the summer time is a nice time. I will come back. I’m committed to The Driver Suit Blog, and I will continue my work.

Now that the sabbatical announcement is done, I’d like to discuss something about racing. Why do teams continue to use “road course ringers?” For the race at Sonoma, a number of teams decided to use these drivers, who have little Cup experience to try and win races. This hasn’t worked since 1973, but teams keep trying it.

This is part of an odd strategy of taking something that hasn’t worked in decades, and trying it again to see if it works this time around. If it hasn’t worked before, why would it work now? Are there exceptions, yes, but for the most part, it makes no sense. Why would you try something like that? It makes no sense, accomplishes nothing, and makes you look stupid.

That’s it for now, see you all in August!

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On A Few Things

By David G. Firestone

So FOX had their “driver’s only telecast” where the analysts, commentators, and pit road reporters were replaced by drivers for one race. Many people liked the idea, and they thought the telecast was decent. I am not one of those people. I hated the idea, and the result was as bad as I thought I would be.

The pit road reporting wasn’t good. Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were not good on pit road. When you have professional pit road reporters coaching you through the course of the telecast, and you still mess it up, that says a lot. I hated the play by play, Kevin Harvick,Joey Logano, and Clint Bowyer do not have a future in broadcasting. The only decent part were Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin as Analysts.

Is this how desperate FOX and NASCAR are for ratings? The fact that ratings and attendance are down has forced changes, but not all changes are good. There’s a reason you have a dedicated play by play announcer, who went to broadcasting school, and was trained to call sports, and one or more color commentators, who are former athletes, and can add insight to what the play by play guy is saying. When you have a group that are basically all color commentators, it just doesn’t sound good.

On a lighter note, I got an email recently from the author of The Racing Champions Blog. He is a collector of 1/64 Racing Champions cars, which many young racing fans collected growing up. His research on the individual cars is great, and the blog is a great read. I do have a number of Racing Champions cars. Maybe I’ll do a Friday Feature on them at some point.

I’ve also started a couple of new projects on YouTube. It’s under the banner of Dave Tries. One is a beer sampling video series, which I post on Saturdays, and a soda review series that I do on Tuesdays. That’s been keeping me busy lately. I’ve got a couple ideas for videos brewing, and I’ll keep you posted.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On The Dale Jr./Eagles Paint Scheme Controversy

By David G. Firestone

Some minor controversy last week, but it proves something I’ve been, and a lot of people have been saying for a while. It was announced earlier this year, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would drive a Philadelphia Eagles themed car for Axalta All-Pro Teachers Program, a Philadelphia-based effort to reward teachers. This was all set, until last week, when the NFL canceled the scheme, because they have a rule that states that club logos can’t be used to promote another sport.

Can I ask a relevant question? Does the NFL’s greed, selfishness, and myopia know no bounds? What the NFL has essentially done is screw over a charity and cost them money by blindly enforcing a pointless rule. The merchandise sales from this event would have brought in a lot of money for the charity, and, while Dale Jr. is a Washington fan, he, Axalta, the NFL, and the Eagles would get some free good publicity. Thanks to the NFL, nobody looks good right now. Nobody wins in this situation.

Who in the NFL looked at the fact that the Eagles are trying to reach out and help teachers and said “No, our rules are more important than community outreach?” The NFL is completely out of touch with the world around them! This rule really proves that the NFL is run by a greedy corporation that doesn’t seem to understand the value of cross-promotion. The MLB, NHL, and NBA understand the value, especially in cities that have multiple teams. City loyalty is a powerful thing, and the fact the NFL doesn’t understand this is proof that they don’t understand the world they live in.

I could understand this if this was just a race car scheme, with no charity behind it, but why would you screw over a charity for a rule that makes no sense? What exactly did you accomplish by doing this? Oh…I see, you “protected your logos.” You do realize that there are ways to protect logos without making yourself look bad, and screwing over a charity initiative…right? I hope your lawyers and executives are happy…you’ve screwed over a teacher’s charity! You must feel really proud right now!

Add this, along with racial issues, domestic violence, player health, October breast cancer awareness funds, to the list of reasons that prove that the NFL doesn’t seem to care how people see them. I’m really wondering who works in the PR department of the NFL, because they all seem to suck at your jobs. Think about this for a second. If you bend the rules, you will help out the community and make yourself look good. But you live in a world where rules take precedent over PR image. This is new low for the NFL…I hope protecting your logos was worth it!

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on a Lack of Discussion on Nomex

By David G. Firestone

So after over 15 hours and 1262 miles of auto racing, the Memorial Day Trifecta is complete. The Grand Prix of Monaco, The Indianapolis 500, and the Coca Cola 600 have passed us by. I watched all 3 events, and I noticed something that I’d been wondering about, and it really made me mad.

As I discussed on Friday, this is the 50th anniversary of the implementation of Nomex as a material for driver suits. It’s one of the most important safety advancements in the history of auto racing. The 1964 Indianapolis 500 and the 1964 World 600 were the two races that helped bring the issue of fire protection to light. By 1967, three years later, Nomex would hit the racing scene, and has saved countess lives in racing accidents.

You would think that at least one of the telecasts would discuss this at least once…but no. None of the telecasts discussed it. The only time it was mentioned was on a special during the weather delay in the Coca Cola 600, and all that did was to mention the crash and fire, and didn’t even discuss that it led to Nomex.

Why is this being ignored? This is, again, one of the most important advancements in the history of auto racing, and this is the 50th Anniversary of it’s introduction. I could understand some of the telecasts during other races not talking about it, but the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 not talking about it makes no sense.

The HANS device, the SAFER Barrier, and the new designs of race cars are all important, but Nomex was the original driver safety advancement, and 50 years after being implemented, it is still the best material for driver suits. Sit back and think about that for a minute. In a world where technology is advancing to the point it’s impossible to keep up sometimes, Nomex has been the best material to make driver suits for 50 years. Granted, the newer Nomex is designed to be more comfortable, but nothing has surpassed it.

With all the talk about auto racing safety in recent weeks, I would love to see a piece during a pre-race show about what Nomex is, and why it’s so important. I think the issue needs to be discussed, and I can only hope it will be discussed.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on Aric Almirola’s Accident

By David G. Firestone

The big news in NASCAR is that Aric Almirola suffered a T5 Vertebra fracture in a crash on Saturday night. As of this writing, no announcement has been made on when he will return, or who will take over driving duties. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

This accident drives home something that a lot of people have said for many years. No safety system in sports is 100% perfect. Safety in sports is continuously changing. No piece of safety equipment is perfect. No race car is 100% safe. Something will always be missed, and someone will always be injured, hopefully not seriously.

What should happen here is that the accident and the car be thoroughly examined to figure out what went wrong, and changes made to prevent this from happening again. Obviously, this will take time, but racing safety is paramount, and drivers should be protected. It’s amazing to watch races from the late 1990’s, and see how primitive the cars, the uniforms, ad the track safety really was. Now, we take the safety culture for granted, with super safe cars and uniforms, and soft walls.

Racing safety will continue to evolve long after we are gone. No system is perfect, but all systems can get better. Aric Almirola’s accident is just another step in helping safety systems get better. But we have to accept that the danger can never be fully removed from auto racing, and the chance of death can never be removed. I hope the lessons learned can prevent future deaths in auto racing.

The Driver Suit Blog-Is a Pop-Tart a Sandwich?

By David G. Firestone

Is a Pop-Tart a sandwich? It may seem like a dumb question, but there is some merit to this question. Recently, the discussion of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich has been going on. Now while conventional wisdom says a hot dog is not a sandwich, it is traditionally made with a hot dog, inside a bun, with or without toppings. Under that set of parameters, a hot dog could be seen as a sandwich.

But then, I discovered a new aspect to the argument. I read Uni-Watch on a regular basis, and on Sunday, they had a link to this chart. The chart breaks down the kinds of bread and kinds of ingredients inside the bread into nine different styles. Structure refers to bread, ingredients are ingredients. Purist refers to traditional, neutral refers not traditional or outrageous, and rebel is outrageous. For example, ice cream inside waffles could be considered “structural purist, ingredient rebel” because of the fact that the waffles are square, but ice cream is not a savory food.

A chicken wrap would fall under a “structural rebel ingredient purist” since it has traditional sandwich ingredients, albeit in a wrap instead of bread. Wraps fall in an odd category, since I’ve yet to frequent a restaurant where the difference between sandwiches and wraps isn’t made clear. Burritos and tacos fall under structural rebel, ingredient neutral. Every place I’ve been to lists “sandwiches and wraps” not sandwiches, with wraps as a sub category. The Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa would fall in the same category as a chicken wrap. Traditional chicken sandwich ingredients, but instead of bread, it is in a shell of fried chicken.

All this leads to the question “is a Pop-Tart a sandwich?” The structure would be considered a rebel, since it is a baked pastry, and the filling would be considered a rebel, since it is not savory. However, that since jelly is one of the most traditional sandwich fillings, albeit a sweet one, I would argue that it could be in the same category as a chicken wrap. While the chart refers to a Pop-Tart as “radical sandwich anarchy,” I don’t think anyone would ever consider the Pop-Tart a sandwich.

I also think that the structural aspect of the chart is flawed because where do buns and bagels fit? Hamburger buns are one piece, sliced in to two halves. Hot dog buns are one piece of bread, sliced down the middle. If you buy a sandwich bun and cut it almost all the way though you have a structural neutral, but if you cut it all the way through, you have a structural purist. Bagels are even more complicated, since many people only have bagels with cream cheese open faced. But since bagels are used frequently in sandwiches and have been for many years, it could be considered a structural purist. The chart itself is too vague in this respect.

I know this seems like a dumb post, but I’ve done two My Thoughts On about serious topics, and I really wanted to lighten the mood. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really need a sandwich.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on The Eli Manning Game-Used Situation

By David G. Firestone

I like to make decisions based on facts and information rather than emotion. It’s why I won’t react to a story until many facts are in. In this instance, I’ve known about this for some time, but I wanted some more information. Well some information has come to light, and I now am going to discuss my feelings on this. It affects The Driver Suit Blog, and the racing memorabilia market.

Recently, Eli Manning has come under fire for fake game-used memorabilia. These items included items purchased through Steiner Sports. It seemed to me that something didn’t seem right. Brandon Steiner cares too much about his reputation to knowingly sell fake memorabilia. I also was wondering if the New York Giants would even consider selling fake game-used memorabilia, seeing as how collectors are as educated as ever, and love to research these items.

Then, emails between Eli and the Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba came to light. In this email, Eli asked Skiba for “2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli.” Then 20 minutes later, Eli informs his marketing agent, Alan Zucker, “Should be able to get them for tomorrow.” What appears to have happened is that Skiba found two helmets, which were sold for over $4,000 each. These emails were discovered during a lawsuit against Manning, the New York Giants, Skiba, and Steiner Sports, among others.

It goes deeper than that. According to Kaja Whitehouse and Bruce Golding of The New York Post:

“On Thursday, plaintiffs’ lawyer Brian Brook said “it appears to be the case that someone at the Giants organization deleted” those emails, as well as another, previously disclosed 2008 exchange.

In that exchange, Skiba allegedly admitted to plaintiff Eric Inselberg that Manning had asked him to create “BS” versions of a game-used helmet and jersey because Manning “didn’t want to give up the real stuff.”

If this is true, that spells trouble not just for Eli, The Giants, and Steiner, but it could also spell trouble for a lot of the game-used memorabilia market. Supposedly, according to court papers, the Giants gave Michael Strahan a fake Super Bowl jersey. If I was a New York Giants game-used memorabilia collector, I would be very nervous right now.

I need to ask the obvious question: If the Giants are going to sell fake Eli Manning game used memorabilia, and give Michael Strahan a fake version of the jersey he wore in a Super Bowl, do you honestly think that they wouldn’t fake the less expensive game-used stuff? Again, collectors are smarter, and have better resources at their disposal than they ever have before. Lots of collectors rightfully do their own due diligence with items they buy. It’s getting harder and harder to sell fake game-used memorabilia in this day in age.

With the number of photos and videos of players on the Internet, it’s easier to look at a picture, compare it to the item in question, and match game wear. The NFL rules make it a little more difficult though. The NFL requires multiple uniforms and helmets ready for players per game, due to the very real possibility of them getting damaged during games. It makes sense that a player could wear multiple jerseys or helmets during a game. Emmitt Smith famously wore four different jerseys in four quarters when he beat Walter Payton’s rushing record. So players could wear multiple different items during a game, and all of those can be considered “game-worn.”

While many can think that this is only an issue with the Giants, I would say it might be a bit wider than that. Remember, NBC Sports discussed this issue last year. This is why the NFL should take a very close look at the MLB Hologram program. Major League Baseball figured out the solution in 2001. The program is designed strictly prevent fraudulent memorabilia, game used, autographed, stadium used, etc, from making it to the collector market. But the NFL has an advantage over MLB in this sense, in that they have a deal with PSA/DNA.

PSA/DNA is one of the most respected authentication services in the hobby. They authenticate everything from cards to autographs to game-used memorabilia. The NFL uses them for their auction items, but I’m wondering if they aren’t going to start using them for all game-used memorabilia. It would not only solve this problem, but it would give the added boost of making the the items more valuable, since their authenticity would never be in doubt.

The New York Giants and Eli Manning are demonstrating why the game-used memorabilia market is valuable, and at the same time unstable. The NFL now has to ask themselves some serious questions about the viability of one of their most lucrative markets. I can only hope the NFL makes the right decision and helps mitigate the damage.

I also am wondering if Brandon Steiner will cut ties with Eli Manning, and the New York Giants. It would be the right move seeing as how Eli and the Giants have damaged Steiner’s reputation. Based on the evidence, I don’t think Steiner was complicit in selling fake memorabilia. That said, he did sell fraudulent memorabilia, albeit unknowingly, and has his share of the responsibility.

This whole thing is a mess, but it does directly affect the racing memorabilia market because like the NFL, racing teams are the ones selling their racing memorabilia. Now while it is much harder to fake a race-worn driver suit, collectors should be much more careful. Researching is key to not getting ripped off. That’s why I do the work I do, in order to help the collector know what to look for. I’m disgusted that I have to discuss this, but I have no choice. I hope this situation gets resolved, and the right people make the right decisions.