Chat with Ryan McGee
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Ryan McGee will stop by to chat about the 2011 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 '110 season, he will be putting together the NASCAR Power Rankings for ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join McGee Monday at 2 p.m. ET!
Ryan McGee (2:02 PM)
What's up my mountain mist covered brothers and sisters and welcome back to the worldwide Interweb's biggest and baddes one-hour motorsports block party.
Ryan McGee (2:03 PM)
We're finally back at our regularly scheduled time and I'm itching to go...so...to the queries!
Travis (Billings, MT)
Ryan-Just curious how Boyer who finished 35th yesterday won $125,308 in prize money, and Menard, who finished 5th, got $94,925 and even led laps. How is that money distributed?
Ryan McGee (2:06 PM)
Travis (love Montana, by the way), drivers belong to different programs that pay different amounts depending on everything from their past success to the stickers they run on the car. As a result, the sport's bigger names frequently end up with more money than the second tier guys, even if they finish lower.
Ryan McGee (2:07 PM)
The cash bonus program has roots back to the days when track owners and NASCAR were trying to figure out ways to entice the big names to come out and race every weekend during a time when few guys ran the entire schedule. Benny Parsons used to joke to me that it was the "David Pearson Rule".
How can NASCAR get some of the better cup regulars like Jimmie, Kurt and Gordon to race in Natiowide so Rowdy has some better competition cause he didn't even break a sweat beating Harvick, Dale, Sadler and Brad?
Ryan McGee (2:08 PM)
Ha! Everyone else is trying to get rid of Cup guys in Nationwide and you are wanting to add more! I love it. I do wish that Matrk Martin was running more N'wide races than he is. It'd give a chance to see the 1-2 guys in series wins do battle.
Ryan McGee (2:10 PM)
I will say this about guys like Kyle and Harvick. Their participation in the lower series doesn't bother me as much because they are actually invested in those series as team owners. That's good for the series during a time when more full-time Nationwide and Trucks teams are struggling to survive.
Watching the race yesterday, DW mentioned that Dale Jr was using a smaller steering wheel. Just wondering his reason for this and how it might help.
Ryan McGee (2:11 PM)
I talked to Mark Martin about this years ago after watching the way he sits his elbows up on the steering wheel. He said that does that, sits way up close, and uses a smaller wheel all in the name of better leverage on the wheel, especially on short tracks and road courses.
Ryan McGee (2:13 PM)
Try it in your car sometime. Scoot the seat way back and steer, then get right up on it and steer. There's no disputing that you have more control up close. You can even feel the difference in your arms. A smaller wheel would work the same way. It reduces the workload and gives better control.
Is Jennifer Jo Cobb now persona non grata among team owners?
Will Jen Jo refusing to start & park kill her career like it did to Scott Riggs when he said he refused to start
Ryan McGee (2:16 PM)
Harold and Cale, I don't think it'll kill her career. I think that Scott's situation was different. She wasn't just driving, she was also providing the crew chief, big chunk of the crew, and in some cases equiopment and engines. If she was doing all of that and the owner still asked her to start and park, which she clearly hadn't expected when she signed the five-race deal with him, then I don't think anyone blames her for doing what she did.
Ryan McGee (2:17 PM)
We had a nice story about this on ESPN.com over the weekend. Sounds like the deal between Cobb and 2nd Chance Motorsports was going down the tubes even before what happened at Bristol.
Ryan McGee (2:17 PM)
Also, she says she's already close to getting a new deal with a new team. So, we'll see.
Joanne (Ft. Myers)
Do you think all the empty seats at Bristol is partially because fans have given up on Dale jr and are tired of waiting for him to win a race?
Ryan McGee (2:20 PM)
No. By that logic they should be coming back because he's running the best he has in two years. I really believe that the soaring fuel prices had a lot to do with what we saw on Sunday. As much if not more than any other track Bristol depends on out-of-state ticket buyers. I'm not talking about people from Virginia and North Carolina. I'm talking about Texas, Michigan, California, etc. It's not unusual for Bristol to sell tickets to fans from all 50 states for one race. Most of the fans drive in, many in RVs or even old school buses. At $4 per gallon for gas, that's a tall order.
Ryan McGee (2:22 PM)
At the very least, they have to make a choice between the spring race and night race in August. The night race is always going to win that argument. Last year the spring crowd was thin and the fall race was within a few hundred seats of a sellout.
Steve (New Jersey)
It was great to see Bobby Labonte running in the top 10 for much of the race on Sunday! Is he actually a chase contender?
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
I know, right?! I wrote this in the Power Rankings this week and I mean it - aside from Trevor Bayne there's no better feel good story this year than the return of Bobby. I don't know he can hang on to make the Chase, but he'll be in the discussion a lot longer than he has been in a looooong time.
Jake (Irving, TX)
How can people say Edwards should have intentionally wrecked Kyle to win yesterday for payback when Kyle made a mistake at Phoenix and said it was his fault and he was sorry? It's not apples to apples.
Ryan McGee (2:25 PM)
What's weird Jake is that Carl's the one that brought that up first. During his post-race press conference it honestly kind of came out of left field. Payback or not, I was really surprised that Carl didn't try to move him up the track with a bump and run. I never expected him to wreck him, though. And I never considered Phoenix payback even being a factor.
Andrew (Los Angeles)
Hey Ryan, what's going on with the 33 so far this year? I know its early, but is it just bad luck or is there a deeper problem? Does the addition of Menard to RCR have anything to do with it?
Ryan McGee (2:26 PM)
Andrew, the whole RCR situation is kind of bizarre. It has been for a while. There's this every-other-year thing that's been going on there for years now. One great year, one off year. It's not just Bowyer, but Burton can't get out of his own way, and even Harvick admits that they haven't run particularly well.
Ryan McGee (2:27 PM)
Clearly there's something a little - not a lot, but a little - off in the engine department. And Burton's issue was electrical. So they are kind of in scramble mode right now, no question.
Ryan McGee (2:27 PM)
I wish I had the answer, but they don't, so I sure don't.
Bart (East Bay)
Hi Ryan, how can fans complain that the re-configured Bristol doesn't make for good racing when the finish yesterday had the 3 best drivers in NASCAR fighting for the win?
Ryan McGee (2:28 PM)
Before I get to Bart, here's an opposing view...
Aj (Indy )
There must be a disconnect. Media members and NASCAR officials all say the Bristol race was entertaining. I have been watching NASCAR for 15 years and I thought the race was awful. Not because it's not the "old" Bristol, but because the race was boring. You can't say a race is good based on the last 5 laps. It kills me that some media members and NASCAR officials say one thing and it's fan's say another. Then they call out the fans for saying it, like we are unable to know if a race was good or bad. Watching a 500 mile race on TV is awful. Attending a race that is 500 miles is OK, because you spent the money to be there, so you want the race to last longer. That's a tough spot for NASCAR to be in.
Ryan McGee (2:30 PM)
I have two theories on Bristol. 1. I think it is suffering from a bit of a CoT PR problem right now. The reconfiguration is way overblown in my opinion. The stats say there's more passing, but not for the lead. The stats also say there's less wrecking, which clearly bothers some folks.
Ryan McGee (2:32 PM)
2. This will be nothing new from me if you've ever followed my writing at all...I do think that 500 laps is too much. Just as I think 500 miles is too much. Shorter races add intensity and I am convinced they would keep more viewers watching than the current 3:30-plus length races we see most weekends. Even the drivers admit that they don't start forcing the issue until 100 laps/miles or less to go. Why not make that happen sooner than it curently does?
Hey Ryan.....Do you think Montoya would have been in the thick of things to win this weekend if his crew didn't leave a wheel lose? Seems like he had a great car and was passing people all day! Do you rank JPM as a top ten Nascar driver overall???
Ryan McGee (2:35 PM)
Good to year from you again, Felipe, America's biggest JPM fan! Yes, I do think he had a shot at a top ten if not for that problem. The single biggest stunner of his NASCAR career for me is how good he's been on the short tracks. Top 10, I don't know. That's a pretty crowded field these days. But is a threat for the top 10, no doubt.
Cory (Geneva, IL)
What is up with the pit road speeding. There has to be a better way to monitor it. On at least two occasions I saw guys pass someone on pit road coming out of their pit. That doesn't seem right.
Ryan McGee (2:36 PM)
Here's the thing, Cory. The policing of pit road speed used to be solely based on line-to-line speeds measured by stopwatches, etc., all sorts of eyeballed stuff. The drivers demanded that it be modernized. It was. And now more guys get busted. Classic case of "be careful what you wish for".
Which driver do you think will be first to break their long, losing streak? Kenseth, Truex, Burton, Dale, Labonte or Joey?
Ryan McGee (2:38 PM)
1. Kenseth 2. Earnhardt 3. Truex 4. Burton 5. Joey
With Biffle, Bowyer, McMurray, Burton and Logano outside the top 20 in points, is the best (and only?) chance for any of them to make the Chase the Wild Card at this point?
Ryan McGee (2:39 PM)
Yes. Biffle and Bowyer can still make legit runs into the top 10, but the other guys - and I think you have to include Brian Vickers and David Reutimann in this group - will need to get in on wins.
Hey Ryan, do you think I can beat Florida on Thursday?
Ryan McGee (2:39 PM)
Yes. But you'll need to have a monster game.
Ryan, had Carl not been wrecked at Phoenix, he could easily have racked up 6 straight top TWO finishes. How long do you think he is going to keep these ridiculous performances going?
Ryan McGee (2:41 PM)
I said this on NASCAR Now last Monday. He could have won every race we've run going back to Phoenix last November! I see no signs of him slowing down. Now we're headed to California, where RFR has always been great.
Jeremy (Talent Oregon)
Hi Ryan, what is going on with 24? Granted, they won Phoenix, but other than that, it has been a mess this season. Add to that in the last 12 races, the 48 has beatin them 11 out of those 12. How far are they off and can it be fixed beford Martinsville?
Ryan McGee (2:42 PM)
Great point Jeremy, and its another point I made both on NASCAR Now and in this week's Power Rankings. The win at Phoenix is masking what has been a pretty bad year for the 24.
Ryan McGee (2:44 PM)
First, don't worry about comparing Jeff to the 48 right now. No one's that good. Second, they aren't super-far off, but certainly a little. But I contend that none of the four Hendrick teams has had to undergo more in this musical chairs transition than the 24. They'll be fine, especially with Martinsville two weeks away.
Do you think Dale Jr is running better because of LeTarte or is it just a case of him feeling this is his last chance and is really putting more effort into becoming a better driver? I really am like what I am seeing out of that team at this time but, it is a long season.
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
Both. But I give more credit to Letarte than anything else. Just listen to how they communicate on the radio, especially when they are in a hole like they were at Bristol. The big difference is that when Stevie says they can come back, Dale really buys into it. I don't think he was with McGrew, certainly not at the end. It wasn't Lance's fault, it just didn't click.
Rowdy can't win for losing, so to speak. Tries to play nice and still gets booed. Do you think he's just figured that track out?
Ryan McGee (2:46 PM)
Uh...yeah. Better than anyone has figured it out since Rusty. Or maybe even DW.
Aj (Indy )
Shorten the race. Sign me up. Where do we start our protest !!!! Would LOVE to see it. But NASCAR is all about money. They will never shorten the race because people would be less likely to spend the money to drive across 3 states for a 250 mile race VS a 500 mile race. Tracks would have to lower their ticket price's and they don't want to do that. (Bruton Smith is shuddering at just the thought of it). NASCAR listens to the money more so than the fans and that's just the way it will always be until the Fans stop coming to the race. (IE, Bristol)
Ryan McGee (2:49 PM)
I think when the new TV deal negotiations start, which will be this time next year, you'll start hearing serious talk about shortening races. FOX Sports chairman David Hill is already on the record as saying he believes in the idea and I know some other folks at other networks are too. Not all the races, mind you, the Daytona 500/Coke 600, etc. would stay at their "traditional" distances, but others will be seriously looked at.
Ryan McGee (2:49 PM)
I've said it a thousand times, I love the 300-milers at New Hampshire and the 500-K events at Phoenix.
Jim (New York)
2 part question about Paul MenardA) Do you think he'll get his first Cup win this year?B) Does he have a legitimate chance at making the chase?
Ryan McGee (2:51 PM)
Jim, before this season started I would have laughed until I cried at those two questions. But he has me answering "yes" to A and "probably not, but a helluva lot closer than anyone could have imnagined" to B.
Craig (San Jose, CA)
Can you please clear up two things regarding points? 1) Do you still get 10 bonus points for each "regular season" win you have when the Chase starts? 2) Just the Top 10 drivers + 2 wild cards make the Chase? I don't know why they still show the Top 12 in points.
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
1. Not ten bonus points for each win, now its three. 2. Yes, top 10 plus two guys with most wins outside the top 10 but ranked 20th or higher. 3. I think they show the top 12 so we can see who is in the fight to make it in/out of the Chase slots.
You killed JPM in your power rankings too! He's ninth in the points right now and made the chase in '09! I know it must kill most NASCAR fans to see a formula un driver running up with their top guys, but give the man some credit.
Ryan McGee (2:55 PM)
I love the guy, been covering him since his rookie year in CART. And I wish every F1 driver came over here like he did. But '09 was '09 and I need more than four weeks to become a believer.
Traci (Venice, Fl)
So now Brad has to add Jeff Gordon to his long list of enemies? When will Kyle or Jimmie sit Brad down for the talk?
Ryan McGee (2:57 PM)
The good news is that if a driver has an issue with BK during race they can log onto Twitter on the way home and see what his explanation is. Last night he explained to his Twitter followers what his reasoning would be when he finally got to talk to Gordon. I love that.
Ryan McGee (2:57 PM)
Did you see Marty Smith's Friday ESPN.com story on BK and his personality? Good read.
You said that Harvick and Kyle invested in NW is good. But aren't they taking the top prize money from the teams that need it more than they do to get established?
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
Yes and no. To me, taking prize money away is when a guy comes down as a hired gun for a team he could care less about and takes the largest piece of that team's payout home with him, leaving them with just enough to pay for tires. At last KHI and KBM are turning that money back around into the series as full-time participants. And they are also fielding trucks and cars other than the ones that just the bosses drive.
Ryan McGee (3:01 PM)
I liken it to the start of the Truck Series, when you had Earnhardt and Bodine and Childress and Hendrick and Roush all fielding teams. Some were driven by Cup guys, others by up-and-comers. These days, with teams folding and pulling start and park jobs, I think anyone who dares to field a team needs to have our support.
KBM is not fielding cars and only field one truck the owner drives most of the time
Ryan McGee (3:03 PM)
But they have plans to do more. They've made no bones about that. To me, that's even more admirable. Kyle's not making money on his team right now, yet he's still fielding it to try and build something.
Phil (Richmond, Va.)
Switching gears... reports are that Pearl is out in Tennessee... should Tressel be worried?
Ryan McGee (3:03 PM)
If Pearl is truly gone, yes. And Tressel's not alone.
Ryan McGee (3:04 PM)
Alright folks, the bell has gone off and I have to go. Had a TON of ?'s I couldn't get to. So hit me up on Twitter (@ryanmcgeeespn) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). See you next week at 1:30 PM ET from the mothership in Bristol, CT. Until then, tip your wait staff and enjoy the music of Tall Pall.
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