Chat with Ryan McGee
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Ryan McGee will stop by to chat about the 2010 NASCAR season.
McGee, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, is the author of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR: 100 Defining Moments in Stock Car Racing History." For the '10 season, he will be putting together the NASCAR Power Rankings for ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join McGee Monday at 1:30 p.m. ET!
Ryan McGee (1:31 PM)
Hey everybody and welcome to a special half-hour long, half-hour early edition of the Internet's biggest and baddest Monday afternoon motorsports block party. We're a little abbreviated this week because I am at the Death Star in Bristol, CT to join Ray Evernham, Ricky Craven, and Allen Bestwick on NASCAR Now (ESPN2, 5 pm ET)!
Ryan McGee (1:31 PM)
So, without further ado, adieu, ahem...let's get to the queries!
My man Ryan. I know it's still extremely early in the season,but it sure looks like the bold decision by Kenseth to replace his crew chief is paying off. They have a long way to go to catch up to Hendrick and truly establish consistency, but the 17 is looking more like the 17 we are used to. Did Matt just revive his career? Thanks.
Ryan McGee (1:33 PM)
I do think it was a good move, but we can't really start tooting Todd Parrott's horn quite yet. The team told me that Drew Blickensderfer's setup was in the Fontana and Vegas cars. These guys typically work about three weeks ahead, so we'll find out what Parrott can do starting this weekend. But just listening to Kenseth on the radio so far he is undoubtedly enjoying the change.
Ed (Fort Worth)
Hey Ryan! Not jumping off the bridges yet as you advised in the rankings this week, but Vegas looked uncomfortably similar to last year for Junior - strong start and then the slow, maddening fade. The chatter they played on the broadcast yesterday between Dale and Lance was not encouraging either. What happened to the 88 yesterday? Vegas is typically a decent track for him and they qualified 4th.
Ryan McGee (1:36 PM)
First, thanks as always for reading the Power Rankings, Ed. I really do feel the way I wrote in there this week and last. Compared to one year ago they are in WAY better shape and I feel like we'll know what the 88 has over the next races, which just happen to be on two of his five best two tracks - Atlanta and Bristol. As for the barkinng on the radio, I think JR Nation should be digging that. Junior's getting on Lance. That means his self confidence is back.
What was the deal with the 88 pit crew yesterday? That team just cant seem to put a complete race together.
Ryan McGee (1:37 PM)
That's the truth...yet they are still 15th in points. I took a lot from Rick Hendrick's comments last night about the 88 turning the corner. He said that a lot last year too, but I never really believed him.
How dissapointed was Jeff to loose that race yesterday?
Ryan McGee (1:38 PM)
Crushed...but still encouraged. I just had lunch with Ricky Craven and Ray Evernham, who both know Jeff pretty damn well and they said he'll be more motivated than depressed. It's been a loooooong time since he dominated a day like that.
Grant (Boyertown, NJ)
Ryan - Behind the scenes are the drivers whining about the 48 team as much as the fans are? You read that it has affected Jeff's relationship with Jimmie. Are the other teams perplexed, frustrated or both?
Ryan McGee (1:41 PM)
Both. I am going to talk about this on NASCAR Now tonight. It reminds me so much of the 24 car in 1999. They had the best year I've ever seen in '98 - 13 wins. And all winter long everyone talked about how much ground they'd gained on them...then he won the Datytona 500 and two races right off the bat and everyone's shoulders immediately went into slumpage. I will say this, though...they didn't win the championship.
Ryan - Welcome back to the east coast. The 48 team seems to get stronger and stronger. Either they have to be the best "team" of all time or the competition is not as good as everyone says. What do you think?
Ryan McGee (1:43 PM)
Thanks...I am WAY east up here in Bristol, CT. I think I saw Santa drive by a few minutes ago. I firmly believe the competition is best now that it has ever been. You look at the number of cars on the lead lap each week vs. 15, 20, let alone 30 years ago. And so many teams have so much $ to spend and so many drivers have had so much success in other disciplines of racing, easily the most diverse group of drivers in NASCAR history. With all that said, do I think the 48 has the best team of all-time? They're in the top three. I won't put them #1 until they're done.
Fred (Al) [via mobile]
How did steve letarte get the 24crew chief job...And why did ray evernham leave Hms and is there any chance he could come back
Ryan McGee (1:45 PM)
Ray left in 1999, after winning three Cups in four years, to become a team owner. He was the man who led Dodge back into the sport. Then he sold his team to the Gillett family and was eventually squeezed out of any real active role with the team now known as Richard Petty Motorsports. His contractual situation with the Gilletts doesn't allow him to work for another team...but he's working on that.
Ryan McGee (1:47 PM)
As for Letarte, he's a real success story. He literally started at Hendrick on the lowest rung of the ladder. Pretty sure he started under the ladder. To be where he is now is like a guy starting in the mailroom and eventually becoming the CEO of Apple. I don't fault for him for his 2-tire call on Sunday. It wasn't the right call, but at the time it felt like it was. At least he's taking chances now instead of making calls out of fear, which is what it always felt like before.
Jimmie Johnson's team has always peaked late in the year, just in time for the Chase. Pull out your crystal ball for me, Ryan... are they peaking too early?
Ryan McGee (1:48 PM)
Nope. I think as long they can avoid their annual mid-to-late summer slump it doesn't matter when they peak.
Lunch with Craven and Evernham....I don't ever want to hear you complain about your job.
Ryan McGee (1:49 PM)
I don't. This morning I rode in the backseat of the rental car while Ray Evernham drove and Ricky Craven rode shotgun, both of them telling old racing stories. Pretty sure I drooled at one point.
Frank (Boston, MA)
Jimmie is one heck of a driver, dont get me wrong, but it seems like a good deal of the 48 team's success can be contributed to the genius of Knaus. Will Jimmie ultimately have to have some level of success without Knaus in order to cement a legacy as one of the all time greats?
Ryan McGee (1:53 PM)
That's a fair question and it's one that Gordon had to answer. Fair or unfair, Gordon seemed to earn a lot more respect from people after he won his 2001 title with Robbie Loomis. But consider this - Richard Petty earned all but a handful of his 200 wins with his cousin Dale Inman, who is regarded by many as the greatest crew cheif of all time. The fact that he did it with one guy doesn't take away from his records at all. Jimmie's shouldn't either. There's a reason they call it a race TEAM.
Is it true in the past the champion from the previous year got to choose their pit stall all year long no matter where the qualified?
Ryan McGee (1:54 PM)
Yes. And that was the main reason that Dale Earnhardt was such a generic qualifier. He didn't have to be good at it because he knew he was going to get the #1 pit stall anyway. And he always chose the one at the exit of pit road. Every week he'd qualify 25th and after the first pit stop he'd be back in the top five for good.
It's too bad Danica had to get held up by McDowell because she was running really well and probably would've had a top 15, which means we would've seen her pass Kyle Busch and hear him drop explitive after explitive when it happened. I hate being deprived of such things.
Ryan McGee (1:55 PM)
You are a funny man Rich. And yes, I think a lot of people were mad about that wreck. And I also think a lot of people were not.
Ryan McGee (1:56 PM)
Your story reminds me of an A.J. Foyt story. Don't know who his driver was, but it was when Sarah Fisher had broken into the Indy Racing League. His driver was moaning and complaining about the handling of the car and Foyt gets on the radio and says, "You might want to stop whining and start driving. You just got passed by a girl."
Ryan McGee (1:56 PM)
Alan (Santa Maria, CA)
Cause for concern in Montoya's camp? It seemed as though they were on most people's short lists for the championship, but so far, nada.
Ryan McGee (1:58 PM)
I am actually working on a blog about that very topic for tomorrow on ESPN.com. There are a lot of teams that need to get it in gear. Montoya, Hamlin, Newman, all come to mind. A lot of people like to point out that Mark Martin was 34th in points after four races a year ago and came back to nearly win the Cup. But that was Mark freaking Martin and it'd never happened before. You can't count on that happening again.
Ryan McGee (1:59 PM)
Alright folks, gotta go get my makeup put on (which is a sentence I never thought I'd type on a non-Halloween). Easy Eddie Hinton is up next, and he's forgotten more about NASCAR since breakfast than I'll never know. See you back here next Monday at 2 PM ET and don't forget to watch NASCAR Now at 5 PM ET, tonight on ESPN2. In the meantime, tip your wait staff and enjoy the music of Government Cheese.