Chat with Ed Hinton
Hinton, a senior writer, is the latest addition to ESPN.com's NASCAR coverage and makes his first appearance in a chat on SportsNation.
Send your questions now and join Ed at 4 p.m. ET on Friday!
Hinton Archive: Columns
Ed Hinton (4:00 PM)
Hi, everybody. This is my first chat for ESPN.com, and the Michigan media center can be noisy at times, so please forgive any technical miscue I might make. By and large we should be fine, though. We've already got some excellent questions, and I'll begin replying in a moment.
John, Covington GA
Hi Ed, Is SHM not announcing sponcership for Newman a sign of difficulty finding one or deciding which one?
Ed Hinton (4:03 PM)
John, I think it indicates a little difficulty -- but not much. I asked Tony about that, and he said it's more a matter of fitting primary sponsors together. As you know, not many companies want a whole season as a primary sponsor. So I think he's trying to fit together two or three corporations whose philophies and products don't contradict one another.
Ted (New Jersey)
where does Kyle's season rank among some of the best of recent memory?
Ed Hinton (4:05 PM)
Ted, it's simply the hottest first half to 60 percent of a season in my recent memory. Jeff Gordon had the 13 wins in '98, but best I recall, he finished strong. To find a start as hot as Kyle's, with as much pizzazz to it, I'd have to cite Dale Earnhardt in 1987, when he was winning all the races and leaving others wrecked and steaming in his path.
what's been the best NASCAR story you've covered in your time?
Ed Hinton (4:06 PM)
Tough one, Frank! There have been several that qualify for "best," but I'll start with the most profound. That certainly was the safety controversy both before and after Dale Earnhardt's death. But there was absolutley no fun to covering that one. It was sad, and it was tough . . . now to the best . . .
Ed Hinton (4:08 PM)
Speedweeks, 1976, was the wildest and best race week I've ever covered. It started with A.J. Foyt getting thrown off the pole for cheating -- he denies to this day he was cheating -- and Darrell Waltrip getting thrown off the outside pole. The week ended with Richard Petty and David Pearson crashing as they came to the checkered flag, and Pearson nursing his wrecked car across the line to win. We wrote on old manual typewriters then, and I swear I recall getting blisters on my fingertips from writing so much that week.
Did you watch Marty Smith inside JGR's garage on NASCAR Now? What did you think of their facilities?
Ed Hinton (4:12 PM)
Didn't see Marty this time, but I think JGR is right up there with Hendrick in facilities now. JGR has it more contained under one or two roofs, where Hendrick is spread out over several buildings. JGR is state of the art, thought.
Ed Hinton (4:14 PM)
Jeff has so much more going on in his life now that I'm not sure he's the hungry kid we knew a dozen years ago. I do think he'd love to win another championship or two. But I think with all the TV possibilities, his marriage and family and all, he isn't set on breaking the Earnhardt/Petty record of seven titles. One thing is, he doesn't like to drive a loose car the way he used to, and he's not as open to these wild new setups as Johnson and younger drivers are.
Seth (Edinburg, VA)
Im a huge Jeff Gordon fan, do you think he will make it back to the top of the Nascar mountain?
Ed Hinton (4:16 PM)
Ed, Does Dale Jr. still have a chance to win the cup?
Ed Hinton (4:17 PM)
OK, now I'll add the second Dale Jr. question and then answer.
John (Spokane WA)
Welcome Ed, Let me start by asking this, Dale Jr is fading a bit, heading into the chase, is this a sign of whats to come in the chase? or is he a legit contender with the big 3 (18,99,48)
Ed Hinton (4:19 PM)
Dale Jr.'s chances all depend on Hendrick's ability to play what I call "techno-leapfrog." It's true in NASCAR, F1, most racing. That is, Hendrick didn't advance much technically last year because they didn't want to mess up a winning combo. So they got behind. Now, they've shown signs of leapfrogging back over JGR -- witness JJ's win at Indy. Now, JGR is standing pat and Hendrick is on the move. Will it be in time to get Dale Jr. the title? I'd say 50-50
josh park city
what are the odds that darlington will one day get there labor day race back? california cant even keep a footbal team in L.A so why do they have that race?
Ed Hinton (4:22 PM)
I just told a high NASCAR official today that if they'd wanted 100 percent rave reviews last week when they brought back the name Southern 500, they should have moved it back to Labor Day, not use the name for the Mother's Day race. I think if they realize they've gone too far with the California reach, maybe they'll pull the Labor Day race back to Darlington and call it the Southern 500 again. But that's going to take Brian France de facto acknowledging a big mistake, and that may take a couple of years.
josh (park city)
have you heard of any possible changes to the car for next year?
Ed Hinton (4:25 PM)
Josh, all I know is, they'd BETTER make some changes to the car, ASAP. The thing still won't turn, and has other issues. I, for one, think the tire problems at Indy were because teams have the cars "yawed," or cocked slightly sideways going down the straights. So you had that horrific right-rear wear, like sprint cars on dirt. NASCAR's just going to have to bend on this. They tried to make a Car of Tomorrow, came up with more a Car of Yesterday, and it has the handling issues of the worst of both worlds.
Since the HMS cars all share information and get their engines internally, why does Junior appear to be getting that much less mileage than any of the rest of the team? Does Junior have that much of a lead foot?
Ed Hinton (4:28 PM)
woops! still green. posted the wrong one. To answer this one: The Earnhardts have always gotten bad gas mileage. It's driving style -- Sr., and now Jr., tend to jump back in the throttle quicker in a corner than most. Not many people realize this, but The Fight race, 1979 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt would have been right there in the mix with Cale and Donnie, except that he had to pit for fuel about three laps earlier. He'd been running with them all day. Fuel mileage took him out.
josh (park city)
i know this is a nascar chat but have you watched the olympics? and if so what has been your favorite event to watch?
Ed Hinton (4:29 PM)
now the next one, and then I'll answer
What is your fav. olympic event?
Ed Hinton (4:31 PM)
No doubt about it, it was the men's 4x100 free style swimming that the U.S. won after the French had been doing a lot of talking. The rundown on the final leg was absolutely spectacular.
RAY GORDON REID COLUMBUS OHIO
QUESTION TO ESPN/EDHINTON AT 4.15 PM HI ED HINTON WHO YOU GOT SUNDAY AT MICHIGAN
Ed Hinton (4:32 PM)
OK, Ray, I'll answer your thrice-sent question this way: Box the trifecta, with Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, in no particular order.
Hey Ed. Good job so far on your first chat. I was wondering, are you just a stock car racing kind of guy or do you follow open wheel racing or trucks or anything else?
Ed Hinton (4:35 PM)
No, no, I'm an open wheel guy from way back, as well. I actually grew up on supermodifieds in the Gulf South. I've covered a lot of Formula One over the years, a couplre of 24 hour sports car races at Le Mans, and a whole bunch of Indy car racing. I've covered the Indy 500 most years since 1975. I got in big trouble at Indy in the '90s for harshly criticicizing the split. But it was because I knew it would devastate the 500, and it did. Now I'm pulling for them to heal the wounds, but it'll take 12 or 14 years.
what did foyt do to get kicked of the pole?
Ed Hinton (4:37 PM)
Well, there was a little matter of nitrous oxide supposed concealed in a fire extinguisher bottle. Foyt's always denied it. But get this: his car owner, Hoss Ellington, claimed he had that bottle in there from another race, and forgot it was in there! Yeah, right.
John (Spokane WA)
Okay, now on to another ?, Whats the odds on all 3 RCR cars making it in the chase, and do you see Mears having a successful year next year in the 07 or the 33, whichever they decide?
Ed Hinton (4:41 PM)
All three might make it, but as for who'll hang in, Burton's always steady and Bowyer tends to put together little charges thru the Chase. Kevin's so aggressive that sometimes he hurts himself, but more often he gets caught up with other people's trouble.
in your years covering the sport what was the best chetting story that you ever herd of?
Ed Hinton (4:43 PM)
Josh, if we had six hours, maybe I could tell the best ones. But Junior Johnson always was the maestro. Once, in plate racing, he had a metal piece inside the intake manifold that didn't even activate until a certain amount of RPM. So NASCAR couldn't find it in inspection. A crew member squealed, and that's how they caught it. Otherwise he'd have run it forever . . . another one coming . . .
Ed Hinton (4:45 PM)
Junior also reversed the threads on the screws that held the carburetor base down to the spacer and manifold. When you thought you were loosening them, they actually tightened. So NASCAR found a nice, tight fit, where air couldn't be brought in, upon inspection. For the race, Junior "tightened" them, and in fact loosened them, creating an abundance of air intake and beating the dickens out of the restrictor plate theory.
What kind of racing do you think we'll see this weekend?
Ed Hinton (4:46 PM)
Actually pretty good. The one advantage to the COT, other than safety, is that it knocks such a big hole in the air that drafting is becoming more of a factor on tracks other than Daytona and Talladega. We saw it at Indy and Pocono on the long straights, and since Michigan is 2.0 miles, maybe we'll see them hang together a bit on the straightaways here too.
Hey Ed. I've enjoyed your work so far with ESPN. I was just curious as to where you did your fine work before coming to the World Wide Leader.
Ed Hinton (4:50 PM)
Prior to ESPN I was the primary motorsports writer for the Tribune Co. chain (L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, etc.) Before that I was at Sports Illustrated for nine years. Before that I was at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 12 years. So I've been around a long, long time, but the ESPN job is beyond a doubt the most fun and the best job I've had, in all the years I've gotten paid to hang around racetracks.
Russell (Cincinnati, OH)
How do you feel about the popularity of NASCAR over the last few year? I personally went from a die hard race fan in 2005 to basically no interest now in 2008. Am I alone?
Ed Hinton (4:52 PM)
You're by no means alone, Russell. In recent years I've had tons of e-mail from fans who feel they've been forgotten, ignored, left behind . . . and that NASCAR's just not as much fun as it used to be. Well, part of my mission here is to lobby NASCAR to put a lot of pizzazz back in, and get back to the kind of excitement that made NASCAR popular in the first place. For openers, I would direct you to my "Free Kyle" column of a couple of days ago.
Russell (Cincinnati, OH)
I'm a huge Bill Elliott fan. Do you see NASCAR doing anything special for Bill before he calls it a career at the end of the year?
Ed Hinton (4:55 PM)
I think they'll certainly do something for him at Atlanta in the fall. I know track prez Ed Clark has a lot of respect for Bill. And Bill did wonders for NASCAR interest in Atlanta in the '80s. I can tell you first hand, because I was there, working for the AJC. As for NASCAR overall, though, sad to say, they're a pretty out of sight, out of mind sport. So, other than in Georgia, I don't think he'll get the sendoff he deserves.
Ken (Trenton, NJ)
What's your favorite track to watch a race at? How about to cover a race at?
Ed Hinton (4:57 PM)
Bristol, because you can see everything all at once, without turning your head like at a tennis match. Before restrictor plates I would have said Daytona and Talladega, but now, they're just moving parking lots. To combine action with visibility, I'll take Bristol -- although their repaving and reconfiguration of the track has kind of tamed the last couple of races.
Ed Hinton (4:58 PM)
Got loads I'd love to answer, but we've got time for one more . . .this'll be a talk-about-it-down at the tavern question and answer.
Russell (Cincinnati, OH)
How soon do you think we will see a legitimate female contender in the Sprint or Nationwide Series?
Ed Hinton (5:00 PM)
It's probably going to be a while, because with the fading of Erin Crocker there's not a clear heiress to a Cup or Nationwide ride. I'd dearly love to see Danica over here, though. Don't know if she'd win, but I even told her dad, T.J., she'd draw a lot of attention. Thing is, when somebody hits her, she hits back. So I think within a few weeks she'd have a feud going with every one of the other 42 drivers!
Ed Hinton (5:01 PM)
Thanks for joining in, folks. You've made my first chat a real blast. Gotta go finish a column, though. See y'all next time.