Thursday, November 12, 2009

NASCAR's Biggest Mystery Has Been Solved!

(Right) Rear Tire

the final chapter in the saga of the Maltese Lug Nut

It was a dark and stormy night. The petite brunette walked into the Subway restaurant wearing a Tony Stewart t-shirt. She was there to see Roush/Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards who was making an appearance at the restaurant as part of his contract. She walked up to the counter where she was greeted by the driver.

"What can I get for you?" Edwards asked. He seemed totally unfazed by the fact that she was wearing a rival driver's t-shirt. She placed her order, and the driver immediately began making her request. He handed her the sack; she paid for the sandwich and returned to her car. She opened the bag and removed a small plastic container that the driver had slipped into the sack just before handing it to her. She removed a data card from the container, placed it in her laptop, and opened the file.

"Hello, Melissa," the man on the screen began. It was Jack Roush. "I see Carl had no trouble spotting you. I've arranged for you to go undercover at the race this weekend as a reporter. Your assignment is to follow Tony Stewart for the entire weekend- team meetings, media events, everything. When he moves, I want you there with him. If you see or hear anything out of the ordinary, I want to know about it immediately. Helton may be on to something, and I want to make sure that I beat him to it. See you at the track."

Melissa bristled at the thought of having to spend the entire weekend with Tony Stewart, but she knew that it would be useless to argue. Once Jack Roush made up his mind, there was no changing it.


When Melissa showed up at the track, Stewart was already in a foul mood. Chief Inspector Helton had the owner/driver under constant surveillance. While Stewart's meteoric rise to the top of the NASCAR points standings had cooled, Helton still had doubts as to whether Stewart's success was based on talent and hard work or possession of the Lug Nut. Having a "reporter" shadow him all weekend would do nothing to alleviate Stewart's surliness. Up and down the garages, teams were placing bets on how long it would be before Stewart let his legendary temper get the better of him. During a break between practices, drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman talked about the Lug Nut and Stewart's bad mood.

"I just don't understand all this fuss over a lug nut," Newman commented to his former teammate. "You were at Roush. What's so special about this particular lug?"

"Don't ask me," Busch replied. "I never heard anything about it while I was there. Jack must have gotten hold of it after I left." Tony Stewart was walking by and overheard the two drivers discussing the Lug Nut.

"I'm sick and tired of this Lug Nut b.s.," Stewart complained as his "shadow" listened intently. "If I had the blasted thing, I'd give it to Helton just to get him off my back. He thinks I have it. Darian says Chad has it. Chad says Ray never took it off the T-Rex. If you ask me, I'm beginning to think that it's all a NASCAR plot to keep us off our game so that Jimmie can win a 4th straight championship." Busch and Newman nodded as Stewart and the girl walked off.


Meanwhile, in a secluded area of the track, Jack Roush was meeting with Helton and NASCAR chairman Brian France. The look on Roush's face clearly indicated that the conversation was not going his way. Roush vigorously argued his case, but Helton and France were adamant. Roush left the meeting with a disgruntled look on his face. That look was still apparent when he walked up behind the young woman assigned to follow Stewart.

"Hello, Melissa." The young woman turned to see her employer standing behind her. "You've done an admirable job putting up with Tony this weekend, but then I knew if anyone could, it would be you. Your duties here are over; I've decided to stop the search for the Lug Nut. You can spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with David and his crew if you'd like." The young woman thanked the owner and quickly made her way to the garage of her favorite driver.


By the time NASCAR returned to Phoenix for the fall race, things had returned to normal- at least by NASCAR standards. Teams were complaining about phantom debris cautions and trying to find a way to keep the #48 team from claiming the championship. Talk in the garages centered less and less on the Maltese Lug Nut and more on plans for the off-season and getting ready for 2010. As Helton sat in the stands surveying the track, he felt confident that the Maltese Lug Nut would quickly return to the realm of myth and legend where it belonged.


But what of the Maltese Lug Nut? The truth of the matter is that the lug nut that Kristen picked up in Michigan was a fake. The REAL Maltese Lug Nut was tucked away inside a safe deposit box at a Charlotte area bank. It was occasionally removed from its secure location and taken to the track where it was placed on the right rear tire of...

...the #2 Miller Lite Dodge of Kurt Busch.

You see, Pat Tryson- then crew chief for RFR driver Mark Martin- had come into posession of the Lug Nut in November 2005 when he noticed the hallowed piece of metal fall from the right rear tire of Jimmie Johnson's badly damaged race car at the season's final race at Homestead. Tryson was able to retrieve the Lug Nut before anyone on the #48 team discovered that it was missing.

When Tryson left RFR in 2007, the Lug Nut was stashed in his pocket ,and a masterfully crafted forgery was left in its place. And like that day when he left Roush, Tryson would leave Penske Racing taking the Maltese Lug Nut with him to his new position at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Has NASCAR Lost Its Expletive Deleted Mind????

Here is a quote from Joe Menzer's article posted on

"how long does NASCAR think the healthy approachto any of its problems is to say they 'have long believed in having an independent media' and that 'debate is great for any sport'-- and then have a highly placed executive from its governing bodypublicly call for the firing of a trio of broadcasters who criticize their sport?"

The trio of broadcasters Menzer refers to are Dr. Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, and Dale Jarrett.

If NASCAR wants them fired, I can only imagine what they might do to Ryan Newman for his outspokenness.

Paging Dr. Black to the Big Yellow Hauler. The NASCAR execs need serious help.

(For those who don't know, Dr. Black(or Code Black) is hospital lingo for trouble on the psychiatric ward.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SYMT Tour- Chase Finale

Today, we take a trip with Mr. Peabody and Sherman via the Way Back Machine to November 20, 2005.
It's the final race of the 2005 NASCAR Sprint(then Nextel) season. The championship is still up for grabs with Tony Stewart holding a 52 point lead over Jimmie Johnson. Carl Edwards is still considered to be a contender at 87 points out, and Greg Biffle is an outside shot at 102 points back. Nevertheless, as the race telecast begins, everyone feels certain that it's a two man race between Stewart and Johnson and that by the end of the night, Smoke will have earned his second championship in three years. A finish of 18th or better will secure the trophy for the #20 irregardless of what the #48 team does, and Homestead is generally agreed to be one of Tony's better tracks.
As the race begins, the #20 team is already in the hole. Tony will start the race in the 20th position while Carl Edwards will start on the pole. Tony's lead over Edwards has been cut to a mere 10 points. Biffle will start 7th and Johnson 32nd. Despite Johnson's poor qualifying effort, everyone feels sure that it won't be long before Knaus and company are running up front.
All attention seems focused on Stewart and Johnson. Johnson is slowly moving up, and Stewart is struggling. The fact that Edwards is leading the race seems to be of no importance. As Stewart's difficulties continue, the commentators begin expressing doubts as to whether or not Tony will be able to seal the deal.
Meanwhile, following pit stops, Jimmie Johnson has been radioing back to his team that the car isn't right. It appears from those observing the race that Jimmie would like to return to the pits and have everything checked out. Crew chief Chad Knaus chalks this up to the pressure of the championship hunt and tries to reassure his driver that everything is fine. When the green flag waves again, Jimmie starts going backwards and in a hurry. Chad still believes that Jimmie is merely reacting to the pressure of the race. Jimmie had missed out on winning his first championship the year before by a scant 8 points, and neither he nor Knaus want a repeat. Knaus tells his driver to calm down and work it out. By lap 124, it is clear that, real or imagined, Johnson is in trouble. As race leader Jeff Gordon moves in to place his teammate one lap down, Jimmie' right rear tire finally lets go, and Johnson is sent spinning into the wall. Knaus is visibly upset; the pit road cameras catch him slamming his clipboard and telling the crew to pack everything up and head for home. There will be no attempt to get Johnson back out on the track.
Johnson's misfortune seems to ease the pressure on Stewart. While the #20 team is still struggling to get a handle on the car, Stewart is managing to hold his positiion, eventually crossing the finish line in 15th,winning his 2nd championship by 35 points over Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. Biffle, the race winner, would finish 2nd in the standings by virtue of more wins than Edwards. Johnson would end up 5th in the standings.
One has to wonder what would have happened if Chad had told Jimmie to pit at the first sign of trouble. There were plenty of laps left to recover, and given Stewart's struggles, the #48 team just might have pulled it off. We'll never know. What was apparent, however, was the tension between Johnson and Knaus. Many both inside and outside the NASCAR garages thought that Knaus' tenure as crew chief of the #48 would come to an end. Team owner Rick Hendrick, sensing tension between the driver and crew chief, called the men into his office for a little heart to heart talk. Knaus and Johnson mended the rift, and would come back with a vengeance for the 2006 season, winning what would be the 1st of three straight championships.
In this humble beagle's opinion, Tony should have a piece of that tire next to the 2005 championship trophy. If Jimmie hadn't blown the tire, I don't think Tony would have won the championship. That's not to say that Jimmie would have won, but there was just something going on with the #2o team that didn't go away until Jimmie was out of the picture.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SYMT Tour- Chase Race #1

Talladega Nightmares
Every NASCAR fan and driver knows that the fall race at Talladega is the race that wreaks havoc on the Chase standings. Every Chase driver has the fall date at Talladega circled on their calendar. Why? Kurt Busch said it best: “You go into Talladega just hoping to survive and hoping that you’ve done enough before then just in case something happens.” Here is a brief recap of the standings following the Talladega fall race:

1. In 2004, Talladega was the 3rd race in the Chase. Jimmie Johnson entered the race 4th in the overall points standings, 56 points behind 2nd place Kurt Busch; he left in 9th, losing 100 points to Busch. Johnson would miss out on his first Sprint Cup championship by a scant 8 points.

2. In 2006, the fall race was moved to the 4th race in the Chase. That year, Brian Vickers spun teammate Jimmie Johnson into Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Fortunately for Johnson, he did not take a big hit in the points, and he went on to win the first of his 3 championships.

3. Last year, Carl Edwards trailed Jimmie Johnson by a mere 10 points on the eve of the Talladega race. A crash which caused damage to the entire Roush Fenway race team increased the points differential between Edwards and Johnson to 72 points.

This year, the fall race at Talladega moves to the 7th race of the Chase, leaving the Chase drivers only 3 races to recover from a bad race, so it’s anyone’s guess what effect the race will have on the standings this year.

So, after a discussion with F2 and GGW Commissioner photogr, the Beagle decided why wait until ‘Dega to create chaos with the standings, and thus came up with this week’s race format.

One of the constants in this year’s SYMT has been the number of field fillers and start & parkers who qualify above their talent on Friday only to revert to their normal lackluster performances on race day(as jon_464 always says, “you people know who you are”). All of us GGW racers have been plagued with this phenomenon over the course of the season- some more than others.

With that in mind, this week’s race will be a “Best of the Worst” race. As with the regular season, the starting grid will be set according to Sprint Cup qualifying with one small but important change- drivers will be assigned from the bottom up:

1st place GGW (Tez) will start 43rd
2nd place GGW (Stork) will start 42nd
3rd place GGW (F2) will start 41st
4th place GGW (SB) will start 40th
5th place GGW (Kristen) will start 39th

and so on until the field is set.

Now, before you get all bummed out over the prospect of being paired with Dave Blaney Joe Nemechek, or God forbid, Todd Bodine, there’s always the possibility that one (or more) of the top drivers could have a bad qualifying day. Don’t believe me? One only needs to look at this year’s Daytona 500 for proof. Matt Kenseth qualified 39th for the race and ended up as Victoria Lane’s date for the evening.

The starting grid will be posted to this blog and the Lug-Nuts group blog as soon as the Cup lineup is posted on Friday.

Good luck and let’s go racing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Race, Another Lug Nut

Dial "L" for Lug Nut
the continuing saga of the Maltese Lug Nut
It was a dark and stormy night. At New Hampshire International Speedway, two unidentified persons were lurking around the garage area.

“They know about the fake.” one of the unknown subjects said.

“Relax. All they know is that it’s fake,” counseled the other shadowy figure. “They have no idea where it came from or that we’re behind it.” The two people talked for a few minutes longer then went their separate ways.


Meanwhile, in the Todd Bodine Meeting Room at the track, NASCAR’s start and park drivers were awaiting the arrival of Mike Helton so they could begin their weekly meeting. Helton was using the start and parkers as his eyes and ears in the garage as a means of having them earn their prize money each week. As Helton strolled into the room, the drivers took their seats.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Helton said addressing the group. “What can you tell me?”

“Not much,” replied driver Dave Blaney. “The Valus Gang was all over the race track at Sonoma, and we couldn’t keep up with them. Plus, Kristen was nowhere to be found after Friday.”

“Yes, we know about Kristen’s disappearance. There was an unfortunate incident in the press room,” Helton told the assembled drivers. “What else you got?”

“There’s a rumor going around that Jack has hired his own investigator to find the Lug Nut,” Joe Nemechek offered.

“I’ll have a chat with Jack. We don’t need a bunch of outsiders poking around the garages,” Helton responded. “Anything else?”

“Oh yeah,” Todd Bodine chimed in. “There’s this guy named Hanner going around asking questions about Dale Jr. and Vicky. Seems she’s not real happy that Junior hasn’t been to see her in awhile.”

“We’re well aware of Mr. Hanner,” Helton bristled, “and I’ve had a little ‘chat’ with Vicky. Don’t worry about them; just find that Lug Nut!!” Helton turned and exited the room.


Meanwhile, a cell phone rang in California.

“Hello,” a female voice answered.

“Good evening, Melissa.” It was Jack Roush. “I see you received the envelope.”

:”Yes, sir.” she replied.

“I apologize for not contacting you sooner, but it’s taken longer than I expected to get through all your film from Sonoma,” Roush began. “What did you find out?”

“Not much, sir.” she responded. “It was rather difficult with Kristen lying low all weekend.”

“Ah, yes. The unfortunate press room incident,’ the team owner commented. “Funny thing about that. I’ve seen Smoke go ballistic at other reporters for asking a question like that. I wonder why he didn’t blow up at her. I also noticed that Ryan and Kurt have been spending a lot of time together at the track. Perhaps you should spend more time around the #14 team at your next race.”

“But sir,” the girl protested, “Ryan and Kurt were teammates. I’m sure there’s nothing going on there. Besides that, Kristen would NEVER give the Lug Nut to Tony. She’d give it to a start and park team first.”

“Maybe,” Roush said, “but nevertheless, I want you to check it out at your next race. Kristen’s dislike for Stewart could be an act. As Shakespeare once said, ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much,’ and remember, it’s for the good of the team.”

“Yes, sir.” the girl answered.

“Very good, I’ll contact you again soon. You know what to do with the cell phone?” Roush asked.

“Yes, sir.” The two parties disconnected the call.


One week later at Daytona, Helton approached the hauler of Roush/Fenway driver. Carl Edwards. Jack Roush was standing outside talking with the driver.

“Carl, Jack,” Helton said acknowledging the two men. “Carl, if you don’t mind. I’d like to speak to Jack privately.” Edwards looked at the owner and walked to the garage. Once Helton was sure the driver was out of ear shot, he turned his attention back to Roush. “Brian would like you to come watch the race from the suite tonight.”

“I’ll be in Carl’s pit,” Roush responded. Helton looked at the team owner sternly.

“I think you misunderstood me, Jack,” Helton said authoritatively. “This isn’t a request. Brian expects you to be there before the green flag drops.” Roush glared as Helton walked away.


Fifteen minutes after the green flag dropped, Roush walked into Brian France’s suite.

“You’re late,” France said. The tone of his voice clearly showed his displeasure with the team owner.

“So? What are you going to do about it?” Roush asked as he took a seat. Helton feared an escalation of the scene and stepped in.

“Look, Jack,” Helton said, trying to keep the meeting civil, “we need to talk about the Maltese Lug Nut.”

“It’s mine, and I want it back,” Roush asserted.

“We’re doing all we can to find it,” Helton tried to reassure the owner. “Word around the garage is that you’ve hired your own investigator.”

“Who told you that?” Roush queried. “Your start and park spies?”

“I have my sources,” Helton said. “The point is we don’t need outsiders poking around NASCAR business.” Roush got up from his chair and headed for the door.

“Look, you leave the Lug Nut to me,” Roush said as he opened the door to the suite. “Besides, you’ve got bigger things to worry about. It won't be long before that Hanner guy blows the lid clean off the Junior and Vicky deal."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Which Champion Is Better. . . ????

I know, I know. It's an apples and oranges type question, but that's not where I'm going

As the cutoff for the Chase grows nearer and nearer, the NASCAR pundits are starting to weigh in with their opinions on who will win the Sprint Cup Championship. Most seem to agree that it's a two man race between Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, and hence the title question- sort of. Which champion is better for NASCAR and the state of the sport?

Jimmie Johnson has won a history tying three straight championships and is gunning for a fourth. There is no doubt that he and Chad Knaus save their best stuff for the Chase (well, except for Homestead in 2005 when Chad wouldn't listen to Jimmie; otherwise, Jimmie would be going for five straight this year). A fourth straight championship would almost certainly guarantee Jimmie and Chad entry into the Hall of Fame when the time comes, but do the fans really want to see the #48 team on the championship stage yet again?

Tony Stewart has made the owner/driver combo look like child's play this year. Tony came out of the gates at Daytona in February ready to run. In a season where most pundits predicted that he would struggle to even win a race, let alone contend for the Chase, Tony has won three points races plus the All-Star race and currently sits atop the points chart. Simply starting the Michigan race on Sunday guarantees his berth in the Chase. Should Tony win the Championship come November, he would be the first owner/driver to do so since Alan Kulwicki. Yes, there are a myriad of differences between what Tony has accomplished this year and what Kulwicki accomplished, and Tony will be the first to point that out. However, you can bet that you will not hear mention of that from the sportswriters come November if Tony wins. The headlines will simply read "Stewart Becomes First Owner/Driver To Win Championship Since Kulwicki."

So which champion would be better for the sport of NASCAR, Jimmie or Tony? One thing is for certain. It looks like we might finally get the exciting Chase that was promised when the 10 race playoff was put into place in 2004.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Tire, A Tire, My Kingdom for a Tire!!!

One week away from the first anniversary of the tire debacle at Indy, Katie revisits some old blogs on tire issues.


(originally posted 7/28/08 on


Charlotte- Following Sunday's dismal race at Indianapolis, NASCAR Director of Competition Robin Pemberton announced today that NASCAR will be making major changes to the Sprint Cup Series.

"To say that this was an embarrassment to NASCAR is an understatement," Pemberton told reporters. "We want to make absolutely sure that nothing like this ever happens again."

In the first of two measures to prevent a repeat of the Brickyard events, NASCAR terminated its contract with Goodyear Tire & Rubber, who until now, held the exclusive rights as NASCAR's tire supplier.

In the second measure, Pemberton announced that NASCAR will be scrapping the controversial COT effective immediately. In unveiling the new car, which will make its debut this weekend at Pocono, Pemberton said that NASCAR wanted to return to a simpler, more basic car.

In a prepared statement, NASCAR chairman Brian France said "This car should meet with approval from NASCAR fans. It puts the outcome of the race back in the hands of the drivers."

Or maybe in this case, feet.

Evidently, Goodyear didn't get the message since tires once again became an issue at Daytona in February.

Same Song. Second Verse

(originally posted 2/14/09 on

Katie discovered this news item while leafing through a copy of a pet product magazine.

Daytona Beach- Following several tire failures involving high profile drivers- including Tony Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman- plus the recall of several race tires by Goodyear, NASCAR officials announced a major change in their tire supplier.

"We don't want to start the season off like this," NASCAR Director of Competition Robin Pemberton told reporters during an impromtu question and answer session following Saturday's Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway. "We're not - repeat NOT- going to have another Brickyard on our hands," he said emphatically. Pemberton was referring to the 2008 Sprint Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was marred by tire issues so severe that caution flags flew every 30 laps to assess tire wear.

To that end, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced that effective immediately, all tires used in NASCAR sanctioned races will be manufactured by the Kong Company. "Anyone with a dog is familiar with the Kong pet toy," Helton told the media. "The things are virtually indestructible. We feel certain that the new Kong tires can withstand all the stresses associated with racing and that our tire problems are a thing of the past."

Goodyear has had several tire tests at Indy since the debacle a year ago. The drivers have all walked away from those testing sessions saying that Goodyear has made significant improvement in the tire over last year, and they are confident that there will not be a repeat of last year's race. We'll find out in a week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Happens in Sonoma...

The Days of Wine and Lug Nuts
the continuing saga of the Maltese Lug Nut

It was a dark and stormy night. NASCAR Chief Inspector Helton put down the note and turned to his computer. He pulled up the FOXSports NASCAR blog pages and scanned them for any information he could find on Kristen and the Maltese Lug Nut. One particular blog entry caught his attention almost immediately. His jaw dropped as he began reading. There in front of him for the entire world to see was all the information concerning Kristen's meeting with her gang: date, time, and place. As he scrolled through the comments, he got even luckier. There was the list of gang members who would be attending the meeting. Helton picked up the phone and started dialing.

"Meeting in the NASCAR hauler Friday morning at Sonoma," Helton barked to the party on the other end of the line. "Don't be late. I'd hate to have to make an example of you, too." Helton hung up the phone and made several more calls, each with the same message as the first.
Friday morning at the track, the men who had received the phone calls assembled at the NASCAR hauler. Helton was waiting for them.

"Good morning, gentlemen. We have a crisis on our hands," Helton told the assembly.

"What is it now?" asked one of the men. "Knaus up to something again?"

"I wish it were that simple, Dave," Helton commented to Dave Blaney. "This is much more serious. The Maltese Lug Nut is still missing."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead," joked Todd Bodine. The room erupted in laughter.

"Watch it Bodine," Helton told the jokester. "You're on thin ice as it is. Your performance at Martinsville was disappointing at best. Most would call it downright disgraceful." The driver jumped up from his seat ready for a fight.

"Look, Phil thinks this whole idea of using the start and park drivers as garage spies is ridiculous. No one is going to tell us anything," Bodine snapped back.

"Perhaps Phil would like a taste of the Carl Long treatment," Helton threatened. Bodine sat back down. "I didn't think so. If you want to park your car after three laps, then you have to earn that prize money in other ways." Heltom turned his attention back to the entire group. "Now, the Valus gang will be here this weekend. I've learned that they will all have pit passes, so keep your eyes and ears open."

"How are we supposed to know what they look like?" asked Joe Nemechek.

"You won't," Helton admitted as he handed out dossiers on the Valus gang members. "We only have pictures of Kristen."

"So we're supposed to figure out just which fans out of the thousands that will be at the track are Kristen's gang members withour so much as a hint of what they look like?" Bodine asked incredulously. "Man, you've been drinking Jeremy's kool-aid."

"We know when and where they're meeting," Helton informed the group, "and the dossiers should help some. You'll know which drivers to give special attention. I'll leave it to you to work out the details among yourselves." The drivers left the hauler and returned to their garages.


Later that afternoon, as the teams prepared for practice and qualifying, no one noticed the petite brunette slip into the hauler of Roush/Fenway driver David Ragan. She made her way to the back of the hauler and up to the office. Jack Roush was sitting behind the desk waiting for her.

"Hello, Melissa, Did anyone see you?" he asked.

"I don't think so," she replied.

"Good. You know why you're here." Roush said.

"You want me to find out what Kristen did with the Maltese Lug Nut."

"Precisely. Do you think she suspects anything?" he queried.

"No, sir," the girl answered, "but what makes you think she'll tell me anything. Helton had Dale Jr. talk to her and got nothing."

"That's where Helton went wrong," Roush remarked. "She was star struck, and now he thinks his start and park spies are going to be able to find the Lug Nut."

"I'll do my best, sir," she told Roush.

"I know you will," the owner remarked. "Make sure no one sees you when you leave."

"Yes, sir." The young woman slipped out of the hauler as easily as she had gotten in and blended in with the other fans at the track.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Coming Soon To A Track Near You

originally posted 6/16/09 on

It's being widely reported that NASCAR CEO Brian France is looking to expand the presence of foreign manufacturers in NASCAR. We here at BNN wonder why Mr. France isn't talking to the manufacturer of the best selling car in America.

Drive through any neighborhood in America, and you're likely to see at least one parked in a driveway or in front of a house(I counted six while driving the dozen or so blocks between my house and Sonic). Brian France probably owns one or two of them. Jeff Gordon probably does, too. Sam Hornish and Casey Mears are probably already shopping for one, and Matt Kenseth will probably be in the market for one in the next few years.

So what is the best selling car in America? It's not the Toyota Camry; it's not the Chevy Impala; it's not even the Ford Fusion. The best selling car in America is...

That's right. The best selling car in America is the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. It has been consistently outselling anything the Big 3 and Toyota put on the market. And why not? It's got everything the American car buying public could possibly want. It's economical, no need to worry about skyrocketing gas prices, and it's environmentally friendly.

So how about it, Mr. France? Shouldn't the best selling car in America be represented in NASCAR?

More Shenanigans in the NASCAR Garages

originally posted 6/9/09 on


the continuing saga of the Maltese Lug Nut

For most of the drivers, crews and officials on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, the upcoming race at Michigan International Speedway was just another stop on the schedule. For NASCAR Chief Inspector Mike Helton, Michigan was the source of his sleepless nights. It was during the August 2008 Cup race at the track that the priceless Maltese Lug Nut had been stolen from the garage area of Roush Fenway Racing. The theft of the Lug Nut sent shockwaves through the NASCAR community, and Helton was no closer to solving the crime now than he had been in August.

He was convinced that the notorious lug nut bandit, Kristen Valus (aka Millie Leit) was behind the theft, but as of yet, he had no solid proof

Helton had mercilessly grilled Kristen for hours in the NASCAR hauler, but his interrogation skills were no match for her years of psychological study.

When the Lug disappeared, it had been in the possession of Jack Roush.

At the time, Roush was absolutely convinced that the evil Toyota Empire had masterminded the theft since their “wonder boy,” Kyle Busch was winning everything in sight. Roush was less sure of that conviction as the 2008 season came to its close. Busch’s dream season turned into a nightmare.

Then, in late January, a mysterious package arrived at the door of Roush-Fenway Racing. Inside the package was a lug nut. It certainly looked like the Maltese Lug Nut, and when Roush driver Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the season- including the prestigious Daytona 500- Roush became convinced that his purloined property had been returned.

Unfortunately, those were the last two races won by a Roush driver. In subsequent races, the Roush teams failed to find Victory Lane, and after another disastrous race at Talladega, Roush discovered that the lug left at the door was a forgery. The real Maltese Lug Nut was still out there somewhere, and Roush wanted it back.

Roush turned the fake lug over to Chief Inspector Helton, who examined it closely. There were only a handful of people in the NASCAR garages who could have created such a masterful deception. Chad Knaus, crew chief of the #48, topped the list.

Knaus’s attention to detail was legendary in the NASCAR garages, and if he wasn’t responsible for the fake lug nut, more than likely he knew who was. Helton summoned Knaus to the big yellow hauler.

“Afternoon, Chad.” Helton said as Knaus took a seat. Helton placed the fake lug on the table directly in front of the crew chief. “Tell me what you know about this.”

“It’s a lug nut.” Knaus said. “It holds the tire on the car.”

“Very funny,” Helton said sarcastically. “Look, I can make sure you don’t get that fourth straight championship if you don’t cooperate. Now tell me what you know about the Maltese Lug Nut.” The crew chief remained calm and collected, completely unaffected by Helton’s threat.

"Ask Ray. Last time I saw it, it was on the T-Rex.” Knaus replied.

“Don’t get smart with me, Chad. Everyone knows that you took the Lug Nut with you when you left Hendrick for DEI. How else could Mikey Waltrip win a race unless he had the Lug Nut on his car?”

“Where’s your proof?” Helton didn’t have an answer, and Chad knew it. “Now, is that all you wanted? I’ve got a car to get ready to race.” Knaus got up from the table and left the hauler.

Helton knew that he had his work cut out for him. He went to the top of the garages and looked out over the parked haulers.

“Who would benefit most from the Lug Nut?” Helton asked himself. As he surveyed the garage area, he assessed each of the likely suspects:
Joey Logano and the #20 team- Logano had been touted as the next best thing since sliced bread. His performance thus far had not lived up to the hype.
The kid was steadily improving, but it was the kind of improvement that came with experience, not by possessing the Lug Nut.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the #88 team- Junior was having an abysmal season. The Lug Nut would go a long way in helping that team turn their season around, and it was no secret that Junior was Kristen’s favorite driver.
Still, Helton knew that if Rick Hendrick had the Lug Nut, he would have given it to the #88 team at the first sign of trouble.
Jeff Gordon and the #24 team- Gordon‘s 2009 season was an improvement over 2008. Gordon took over the 2009 points lead following the Las Vegas race and had held on to it until Dover.

Gordon’s problems, however, were physical, not mechanical. The Lug Nut would cure an ill handling race car; it wouldn’t cure a back ailment.

Kurt Busch and the #2 team- Busch was another driver whose 2009 season to date was a significant improvement over 2008.

More importantly for Helton’s investigation, Kristen Valus was a frequent race guest of Busch and the Brew Crew. Busch, however, held steadfast in his belief that Kristen’s presence at the track and the disappearance of the Lug Nut were mere coincidence.

That left Tony Stewart. When Stewart announced in 2008 that he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to form his own Cup team, everyone agreed that he would face an uphill climb in his first season at best; at worst, that climb would be up Mt. Everest. Stewart, however, was proving the experts wrong at every turn.

At the season opening race in Daytona, Stewart had come out of the gate strong. In the first fourteen races of 2009, Stewart finished out of the top 15 four times. Only two of those finishes had been outside the top 20. In what seemed like record time to some, Stewart had amassed a string of top 5’s and top 10’s that had put him atop the points standings and had propelled him to victory in the All-Star Race and at Pocono.

Even more astounding was the fact that Stewart’s success thus far had come without the fiery driver losing his temper. Starting a Sprint Cup team was stressful under normal conditions; starting one during an economic downturn, well, there were those who would say it was downright foolish. Nevertheless, Stewart was making it look like child’s play. Clearly, Helton had some snooping to do around the #14 hauler.

Helton knew that he would have to be extraordinarily cautious with his investigations. Some of NASCAR’s recent rulings had drivers and crews alike on pins and needles; An increased presence in the garage area by a high ranking NASCAR official would have a negative impact on information gathering.

Helton casually strolled through the garage area looking for clues and listening to the garage gossip. His first stop was the hauler of Ryan Newman.

Newman was Stewart’s teammate, but he had previously worked at Penske Racing with Kurt Busch. Newman was also the one who had given Helton the heads up about Kristen during his initial investigation of the theft. Hopefully, Newman would be able to provide more information about Kristen’s activities at the track. The two men talked for a few minutes before Helton turned the subject to Kristen and the Lug Nut.

“So what can you tell me about Kristen Valus?” Helton asked.

“Not much more than I told you last year.” Newman responded. “I didn’t have that much interaction with her.”

“Did you ever see her away from the #2 crew?”

“I saw her at some press conferences,” Newman began, “but I never noticed anything out of the ordinary.” Helton thanked the driver and continued making his way to the #14’s garage area. The #14 crew was hard at work preparing the Office Depot Chevrolet for Sunday’s race. It took only a few minutes of conversation to discover that if indeed Stewart possessed the Lug Nut, the crew was oblivious to the fact. Helton would have to question Stewart directly. As luck would have it, Stewart came walking out of his hauler as Helton was finishing his conversations with the crew.

“Tony, can I have a minute?” Helton called to the owner/driver. Stewart walked over to Helton, who took a piece of paper from his pocket. “What can you tell me about this person?” Helton asked as he showed the paper to Stewart. It was a photo of Kristen.

“I’ve seen her around the track. She’s been at some of my press conferences, and she’s asked me for an autograph on more than one occasion.” Tony answered. There was a slight tone of irritation in his voice. Helton wasn’t sure if that irritation was meant for him or Kristen. Helton pressed on with his interrogation.

“What do you know about the Maltese Lug Nut?” Helton asked point blankly.

“What, you think she gave it to me?” Stewart asked incredulously. “Dude, she doesn’t even like me. Why would she give me the Lug Nut?”

“There are some who think that your success so far can’t be completely attributed to having the right people in the right places.”

“Like I said,” Stewart responded tersely, “the girl doesn’t even like me. Go read the FOXSports blogs if you don’t believe me.” With that, Stewart walked back into his hauler.

Helton returned to his office, concerned that he’d never find the missing Lug Nut. He sat down at his desk and reached to turn on his computer; however, something on his desk caught his attention. It was a folded piece of paper. Helton picked up the note and examined it. He didn’t recognize the handwriting, but he was absolutely certain that whoever had written the note was a woman. It still carried traces of the unmistakable scent of Chanel No. 5 He unfolded the paper and read:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Will Wonders Never Cease

originally posted 4/22/09 on


- Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a sharp drop in the temperature of the Underworld Tuesday morning. The sudden and unexplained temperature decline sent NOAA scientists scrambling for answers. As one unidentified scientist put it "He11 has frozen over, and we've got to find out why."

The answer came Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that NASCAR had placed its chosen one, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on a six week probation for his actions following Saturday night's Sprint Cup race in Phoenix. NASCAR officials had stated after the race that no action would be taken against Earnhardt, Jr., adding further fuel to the speculation that NASCAR has one set of rules for Dale Jr. and another set of rules for everyone else. NASCAR hopes that Earnhardt, Jr.'s probation will put an end to the idea that he is given preferential treatment by the sanctioning body.

In other news Tuesday, midwest farmers reported seeing large numbers of flying pigs.

Showdown At Texas Motor Speedway

originally posted 4/1/09 on

HIGH 1:00p.m. CDT

Part 3 of The Digger Chronicles

It was a dark and stormy night as Digger the gopher tunneled his way to Texas Motor Speedway. It had been a month since a mysterious stranger had alerted Digger to a plot to let him have it at Texas by a cartel of NASCAR drivers, and after a close call with sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, Digger had gone to Washington D.C. asking to be put on the Endangered Species List, but his request was denied. Digger decided that his best course of action would be to lay low for a while and hope the whole thing would just blow over. Things didn't blow over, and two weeks after the Atlanta race, Digger received an e-mail from TMS president Eddie Gossage asking for the gopher's help with a new infield golf course. Everything was coming together just as the mysterious stranger had foretold.

As he neared the speedway, Digger wondered what would be in store for him at the track. He tunneled under the gates and headed for the Hollywood Hotel.

"Maybe I can get Myers, Hammond, and DW to stand with me," Digger thought to himself. "After all, DW saved me from the sharks in Atlanta."

Digger ran into Chris Myers first. "Mr. Myers, you've got to help me! RC and some of the drivers are going to let me have it in the infield while we're here!"

"Digger, you're all wet," Myers told the rodent. "But seriously, I kid because I care.

I wish I could help you out, but I have an exclusive interview with Jerry Jones. He's going to give me all the inside details on his plans to screw up the Cowboys this year."

Digger sat down and waited for Hammond and DW to show up. Soon, the two commentators walked into the studio.

"Hey, Digger, buddy! What's up?" DW asked.

"RC and some of the drivers are gonna let me have it in the infield!"

"Let you have what?" Hammond asked.

"I don't know. All I know is that they're gonna let me have it in the infield while we're here, and if I don't show up, they're gonna send Elliot Sadler's hounds after me! Please, you have to help me!" Digger pleaded.

"Sorry Digger, but we're meeting Larry Mac at Billy Bob's. We've got a date with a mechanical bull." Hammond replied.

"Boogity, boogity, boogity! Let's go bull riding, boys!" DW exclaimed as he and Hammond walked out the door. Digger soon realized that he would have to face RC and the drivers alone.


Meanwhile, on a grassy knoll in downtown Dallas, Richard Childress and the drivers were meeting to finalize their plans.

"Ok, Martin. Were you able to get us what we need?" Childress asked driver Martin Truex, Jr.

"Well, Bass Pro Shops helped us out as best they could. There were some things on that list they just don't carry." Truex replied.

"It's not a problem," commented Juan Pablo Montoya. "What he couldn't get from them, I was able to get from Target,"

"I've got the dogs in place," said Elliot Sadler, "but I'm tellin' ya right now you guys are gonna have to take some of 'em back to Charlotte with you. There just ain't enough room for me and 69 dogs on that plane!."

Tony Stewart had been examining an object in the back of Childress's SUV when he turned to address Sadler.

"Don't look at me, dude. I'm not listening to those dogs bay at my cats all the way home." Stewart returned to examining the object. "Uh, guys," Tony said, turning his attention back to the group, "we're going to have to come up with an alternate plan. The range on these things isn't quite what we expected."

"I guess we'll just have to have us an old fashioned western show down right there in the infield." Kyle Busch said trying to mimmick a Texas drawl. "Anybody squeamish about doing this thing face to face." The other drivers shook their heads.

"Ok, let's get this thing over with." Kurt Busch said, and with that, the drivers disbanded.


The drivers returned to the track just in time to hear the announcement they had been waiting for:
"Digger, please meet Mr. Gossage in the infield. Digger, please meet Mr. Gossage in the infield."
The drivers took their places and waited. Digger knew the hour had come. He took a deep breath and headed for the infield. As soon as he got there, he was surrounded by the drivers.

"Ok, gopher. Say your prayers." Kurt Busch said. Digger's knees were knocking.

"You've chomped your last tire," Tony Stewart said as the drivers raised their weapons.

"Hasta la vista, gopher." commented Juan Pablo Montoya as the drivers took aim.

"Ok, boys. Let him have it!" Childress commanded. Digger closed his eyes and held his breath

As the drivers turned to go back to the motorcoach lot, Chris Myers- fresh from his interview- came strolling across the infield.

"See, Digger. I told you you were all wet." Myers said as he looked down at the water logged gopher.

Digger looked up at Myers, shook his fist, muttered something in gopher, then squished off to the hair and makeup trailer to get dried off.


My NASCAR Off-Week

originally posted 3/11/09 on

Part II of "The Digger Chronicles"

It was a dark and stormy night. Somewhere in the midwest, Digger the NASCAR on FOX racing gopher was burrowing his way back east for the race in Atlanta. He had mistakenly taken a left turn in Albuquerque, a mistake that would send his world into a tailspin. As he tunneled his way under the cornfields, a mysterious voice pierced the night air.

"Pssst. Hey you, gopher. Come here. I've got something for you."

Digger was a little hesitant. In Las Vegas, he had started hearing rumors about being ambushed. He approached the shadowy figure that had emerged from the cornfield cautiously.

“You might want to read this,” the stranger said, handing Digger a piece of paper before disappearing into the cornfield. Digger opened the paper. It read:

To: EG
From: RC
Operation Golf Course is a go. You know what to do.

Digger shuddered. The rumors he’d been hearing were true. A cartel of NASCAR drivers- along with team owner Richard Childress- was out to get him. The fact that this nefarious gang wouldn’t act until the Texas race offered him little comfort. Digger continued tunneling toward Atlanta, trying to figure out how to thwart the cartel’s plans.

In Atlanta, Digger’s anxiety increased substantially. On a visit to the Georgia Aquarium, Digger found himself swimming in the hammerhead shark tank.

While the police investigation proved inconclusive, Digger was sure he had been pushed. To Digger, this incident just further cemented the idea that he was in extreme danger. He had to do something, but what? Digger was thankful that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be taking off the week following the Atlanta race. It would give him time to formulate a plan.

On his way back to Charlotte, Digger stopped for a drink. He explained his dilemma to a Carolina northern flying squirrel who was also at the stream.

“Digger,” the squirrel began, “you definitely have a problem on your hand, but I think I have the perfect solution for you. You need to get your little gopher self on the Endangered Species List. It’s great. Once you’re on that list, no one- and I mean NO ONE- can touch you.”

“Are you sure it will work?” the gopher questioned.

“Absolutely!” replied the squirrel. “I’m on the list myself.”

Digger thanked the squirrel and continued on his way. He knew what he had to do, so he bypassed Charlotte and continued on to Washington D.C.

* * * * *
When Digger arrived in Washington, he immediately set out to meet with the President. He felt sure that the new administration would sympathize with his plight and put him on the Endangered Species List. He popped up on the south lawn of the White House where he was immediately set upon by the First Family’s new dog.

Fortunately for Digger, he was soon swarmed by Secret Service agents who escorted him to a room inside the White House. Once the agents were satisfied that Digger was not a threat, they took him to meet with the President.

“What can I do for you, Digger?” the president asked.

Well, M-m-mister P-p-president,” Digger stammered, “I want you to put me on the Endangered Species List. They’re gonna let me have it at Texas if you don’t.”

“I feel your dilemma, Digger, I really do. Unfortunately, I can’t just put you on the list. There have to be studies done and hearings on Capitol Hill before any species can be listed as endangered.” The gopher’s heart sank. “What I will do,” the president continued, “is set up a Congressional Hearing to discuss your request.”

Digger thanked the President and tunneled his way to the Capitol hearing room where the Congress would consider his request.

The hearing was called to order, and Digger presented his case. The Congressmen listened politely as Digger outlined the plot against him. When he finished, the Congressmen took turns addressing the issue.

“Mr. Chairman,” one Congressman began, “while I empathize with Mr. Digger’s problem, there are many other species whose survival is more essential to the environment- species so rare that were they to become extinct, it would most certainly be a tragedy for the whole of humanity.”

“I agree with my learned colleague,” echoed another. “The research clearly shows that cartoon rodents ARE NOT an endangered species. Let’s look at a few examples, shall we? This fella here routinely outwits one Tom Cat, while this other one constantly runs circles around Sylvester.”

“And if that weren’t enough, these two have been giving Donald Duck fits for years!"

"Oops, wrong Chip and Dale. Let’s try that again."

“There, that’s better. Now as I was saying, I cannot in good conscience vote to put Mr. Digger on the Endangered Species List.” the Congressman said in concluding his remarks.

“But you don’t understand," Digger shouted, “THEY’RE GONNA LET ME HAVE IT AT TEXAS!!!!”

Finally the Chairman spoke. “While we all sympathize with Mr. Digger, we cannot put him on the Endangered Species List. If we put every annoying creature on the list, I dare say, a good many of us would find ourselves listed. The motion to list Digger as an endangered species is denied; however, the evidence does show that cartoon nemeses are seriously threatened. Therefore, effective immediately, Tom Cat, Donald Duck, and Sylvester will be listed as endangered species and afforded all the protections of the law."

Digger left the hearing room dejected. If the government wouldn’t help him, then who could he turn to? He would have to face the Driver Cartel on his own, and with that thought, he began tunneling his way to the next race at Bristol.

Giving the Fans What They Want

originally posted 2/27/09 on

Part I of "The Digger Chronicles"

It was a dark and stormy night. In a smoke-filled private room in the Sahara Hotel casino, 6 of NASCAR’s finest sat playing poker. What looked like an innocent game of cards, however, was in reality something much more sinister. The group had come together to discuss plans for eliminating a nuisance that had come to plague NASCAR racing.

“Let’s get on with this,” said Kurt Busch, a former NASCAR champion and Las Vegas native. His younger brother, Kyle, nodded in agreement.
“I agree with them,” chimed in Martin Truex, Jr. “We need to get back to the track before we’re missed.”

“Patience, gentlemen, patience,” counseled Tony Stewart, two-time champion and self professed leader of this motley band of desperados. “We can’t do anything until Mr. Big arrives.”

“I don’t like this,” said a shadowy figure lurking in one corner of the room. It was Juan Pablo Montoya. “Mr. Big should have been here by now. They’re on to us, I tell you.”
“Relax, Juan Pablo,” Elliot Sadler remarked in his laid back Virginia drawl. “Mr. Big’ll be here.”
“Why would he?” questioned the younger Busch. “Something like this is beneath a man of his experience.”

“That’s exactly why we need him,” explained Stewart. “This shouldn’t pose a problem for him given his background.

Suddenly, the door of the room flew open, and in walked Richard Childress. “Gentlemen," he said as he acknowledged the drivers in the room, “we all know why we’re here. The question is ‘are we all in agreement?’”
“He cost me two cars at Daytona,” Stewart said.

“He’s even more annoying than my brother,” noted the elder Busch. Kyle responded by punching Kurt in the arm.

“He does seem to show up at some really weird places,” added Truex.

“The fans think he should have been taken out a long time ago,” Sadler told the group. “They say he ruins their enjoyment of the race.”

“So, RC, how do you propose we go about eliminating the little pest?” asked Stewart.
“Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think the best way to get him is an ambush.” Childress said.

“Ambush? Are you sure that’s going to work?” pondered Montoya.

“Are you questioning my ability, Juan Pablo?” Childress snapped back. “I’ll have you know I was going after bigger things than him while you were still swilling champagne in F1.”

“So what’s the plan?” Kurt Busch inquired.

“He’s going to receive an e-mail from Eddie Gossage saying that Eddie needs his help designing a golf course in the Texas Motor Speedway infield.” Childress began.

“When he shows up, we’ll all be up in the spotters’ stand waiting. As soon as he’s alone, we let him have it. Martin, will Bass Pro Shops be able to get us everything we need?”

“No problem, RC,” replied Truex.

“What if he doesn’t show up in the infield?” Kyle asked.

“That’s where Elliot’s dogs come in. They’ll chase him in and keep him there.” Childress answered.

“That is if the sound of 69 hound dogs comin’ after him don’t give him a heart attack first.” Sadler chuckled.

"Any more questions?” Childress asked.

“No, I think that about covers it.” Stewart said.
“Good.” Childress retorted. “Then it’s all settled. Digger the gopher gets it when we get to Texas.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Even Year Jinx?????

originally posted 1/27/09 on


Concord, NC
- The racing world was sent reeling today when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick announced that three-time and current NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, will not be allowed to compete for the Cup championship in 2010 or any other even numbered year. The announcement follows an injury to the middle finger of Johnson's left hand at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona this past weekend. Johnson cut his finger trying to cut a hole through his firesuit with a kitchen knife.

"I'm completely serious about this," Hendrick told reporters at a press conference. "Just look at the record. He wins the championship in 2006 and breaks his wrist falling off the top of a golf cart. This year(2008), he slices through his finger; yet in 2007, nothing happened. Obviously, there's some dynamic between Jimmie, the championship, and even numbered years that spells off-season misfortune. I am putting an end to this before Jimmie seriously hurts himself."

Calls to Johnson went unanswered.

Having done the same thing myself(although I wasn't trying to cut a hole in a firesuit), I know how bad it hurts, and I'm really glad that he'll be fine. What do you bet that at least one person shouts "Hey, Jimmie! Show us your hurt finger!" at some point during Daytona?

Mystery In The NASCAR Garages

originally posted 9/6/08 on


It was a dark and stormy night. At a race track somewhere in Michigan, a scream pierced the damp night air.

“Mr. Roush, Mr. Roush! Someone has stolen the Maltese Lug Nut!”

The Maltese Lug Nut, it was what NASCAR dreams were made of. Legend said that the Lug Nut was made from a metal alloy never before seen. Some said that the Lug Nut would make even the most ill-handling race car drive like a dream. Drivers wanted it, and crew chiefs would do anything to possess it. In a garage full of race teams looking for an edge on their competition, the suspects were too numerous to mention.

There was the new team owner who was looking to turn a lackluster team into a championship contender.

There was the obsessive crew chief who would stop at nothing to win a third straight championship.

There was the new kid who was being hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Lug Nut would certainly help him live up to that hype.

There was the four time champion whose team had yet to find its groove. If he could get the Lug Nut, it might just be the catalyst to turn his season around and help him win that elusive fifth championship.

And there was the most popular driver living in the shadow of a legend. Surely the Lug Nut could help him break free of his father's legacy.

One thing was for sure- NASCAR Chief Inspector Helton had his work cut out for him.

Jack Roush had possessed the Maltese Lug Nut snce the end of the 2007 season. He was certain it would give his teams the advantage and bring a championship back to his organization. Roush was positive that the evil Toyota Empire was behind the theft.

After all, Toyota's golden boy, Kyle Busch, was having the kind of season that drivers dream of.

Roush was also certain that the "magnet" found in the Gibbs #20 Nationwide car was in fact the Maltese Lug Nut. For Roush, that was absolute proof that JGR was behind the theft.

Helton wasn't so sure. The pits had been plagued by a rash of lug nut thefts over the past few races. He had spoken to a number of people concerning the thefts, and everything seemed to point to Penske Racing.

Helton spent considerable time around the Penske garage looking for clues and talking to various crew members. Driver Ryan Newman told Helton that there was a new person hanging out with the crew of his teammate, Kurt Busch.

Helton looked more closely at this new person Newman had identified. She was Kristen Valus, a psychologist from San Francisco who attended various races and wrote articles for the Miller Racing website and She seemed innocent enough, but Helton decided to talk to Kurt Busch about the newest addition to his team.

Busch assured Helton that Kristen was not behind the theft of the Maltese Lug Nut. As proof, he pointed out that his team had also been the victim of a lug nut theft.

Helton did even more digging, and by the time NASCAR returned to California, he was ready to identify the culprit. He called a press conference to announce his findings.

"I have asked you here today to expose the thief who stole the Maltese Lug Nut,” Helton told the assembled reporters. A hush fell over the room as Helton unveiled a photo of the culprit.

“She may look like mild-mannered psychologist Kristen Valus,” Helton told the stunned media, “but in reality, she is the notorious lug nut bandit, Millie Leit.” Kristen yelled “You’ll never find the Lug Nut,” as NASCAR security surrounded her and carried her off to the NASCAR hauler. With the culprit in custody, things returned to normal in the NASCAR garage, although Kristen was right about one thing.

They never did find the Maltese Lug Nut.

You will find references to the Maltese Lug Nut in blogs by other writers and comments. Now you know the story.