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 (2:01 PM)
What's up my I-71 gridlocked brothers and sisters and welcome back to the worldwide interweb's biggest and baddest Monday motorsports block party. I'm back from vacation, tanned, not-so-rested, but still ready to talk racing. So without further traffic delays, let's get to the queries!
Mike (Cincinnati, OH)
Do you think, as I do, that Bruton Smith was planning this traffic and parking problem all along in order to get KY and/or federal funds to fix access to KY Speedway? Seems like the posturing started on Friday and Saturday afternoon with his comments about I-71.
Ryan McGee (2:03 PM)
That's a great point Mike, especially coming from someone like you that lives in the area. As a North Carolinian and a 16-year Charlotte resident I know a little something about Bruton's way of doing things...and this fits that pattern.
Ryan McGee (2:04 PM)
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was in Bruton's skybox for a good bit of the race, so yes, the posturing was in full effect. But like so many other states, Kentucky is in a financial mess right now. Beefing up I-71 to help one facility hold one weekend a year makes little fiscal sense.
Ryan McGee (2:05 PM)
First things first - they needed to shore up those parking lots. One of the big issues was soft dirt in the areas they had planned to use for additional parking. Sucking it up and buying some gravel would have gone a long way.
Boss Hogg (Hazzard County)
Let's be honest, my crack police force of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane and Deputy Enos and Deputy Cletus could have done a better job managing that traffic than Kentucky Speedway. 99% of the NASCAR talk this weekend has been about the fiasco, not even sure it matters who won.
Ryan McGee (2:07 PM)
That's the saddest part of all this. After eleven years of legal wrangling and political jabbering about the Kentucky Speedway deserving a Cup race, we're just talking about this and not the race itself.
I had high hopes for this 1.5'er with flat banking and bumps... but i have to say, the racing was.... bad. real bad. the nationwide was more enjoyable but mostly because of fuel mileage. i'd have rather watched a second race at atlanta. thank goodness new hampshire is coming up
Ryan McGee (2:09 PM)
Now there's something you don't hear every day! The drivers who had run a lot of Nationwide/Trucks races at Kentucky were as surprised as the rest of us that the racing wasn't better. Whatever grinding they did to the upper groove didn't work, even Kyle Busch said as much after the race.
Bruton Smith is just an extremely greedy multi-millionaire that is only worried about money and not the fans. He didn't have enough parking, entrances gates, qualified parking attendants, port-a-pots. He converted regular parking into RV parking to make more money but didn't replace those parking spots. He knew on Friday that traffic would be horrible but did nothing to fix it. He sold standing room only tickets when he couldn't handle the seated people. He refused to lower overpriced Bristol tickets. GREED!
Ryan McGee (2:11 PM)
I am getting a lot of this from fans who were at the race, that there weren't enough bathrooms, gates, or people to direct traffic. When Bruton went out into the parking lots to direct traffic I think he was trying to be funny. It wasn't.
Hi Ryan, Tony Jr. didn't work, Lance McGrew bombed and now Knaus-Stevie isn't working. What's next for the #88 team?
Ryan McGee (2:16 PM)
I think they will stick with what they have and I think that's the right thing to do. He was wrecked at Sonoma, not his fault. He was wrecked at Daytona, not his fault. And it wasn't his fault that he had to run on the apron before blending into the track after his pit stop, picking up all that debris and cutting a tire. And you have to compare where he is now to where he was a year ago or two years ago. It's not even the same universe. Yes, he was 11th in points, but he wasn't a legit Chase contender and everyone knew it. This year he is.
Hey Ryan! Love your rankings every week. I was wondering if you think Matt Kenseth will have more than 20 top tens or less. Im thinking 25ish the way he's driving right now. What do you think?
Ryan McGee (2:18 PM)
I think he'll have more than 20 easy. 25 might be pushing it, Johnson had 23 last year and won the title. But he's certainly putting together an old school quietly consistent Matt Kenseth kind of year.
hey ryan,could you list 2 positives & 2 negatives about the nascar season thus far? thanks.
Ryan McGee (2:20 PM)
Positives: 1. We've had 12 race winners in 18 races. 2. There's a genuinely good, exciting group of young guys on the way up. It's been a while since we've had a pack of good kids making some noise.
Ryan McGee (2:21 PM)
Negatives: 1. Still some potentially big financial woes out there, see Red Bull. 2. The Kentucky mess.
Matthew (Columbia, NJ)
Ryan, what is up with the 16 team? Bad luck, set ups? crew chief?
Ryan McGee (2:22 PM)
I really don't know. It was certainly luck early in the year, but now they're just kind of missing it. No matter how good Roush Fenway is there always seems to be one of the four teams that drags. This year it's looking that team is the 16.
Nick Rolando (Orlando)
Ryan, is there any luckier guy than Ryan Newman? I can't count how many races he's run around 22nd all day and somehow finished 5th-10th. Based on pure speed the 16 and other guys should be ahead of him.
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
True. But he's also some great pit calls that got him up there. I like Tony Gibson a lot.
Have to ask Ryan -- Had the situation been reversed @ Daytona, and say Dale, Jr. was the one who pitted leaving Johnson w/o his chosen partner for the race, do you think Chad & Jimmy would have been pissed? I definitely do. Chad would rip Steve Letarte!
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
It has always been my feeling that Tony ruined his chances for another championship when he left Gibbs. There is no way that Hendrick sells him engines that are as good as the ones for the 24, 5, 88 and 48. What do you think?
Ryan McGee (2:25 PM)
As long as a team is dependent on another team or suppoler for engines and/or cars it won't win a championship. That's exactly why I don't buy into these rumors that Gibbs is thinking about shutting down his engine department and going with TRD stuff out of California.
Other than Bristol last year when Rowdy won all 3 races, have you ever seen more Kyle domination then winning 2 races and scoring a 3rd in the other?
Ryan McGee (2:26 PM)
He seems to do that nearly one weekend a month! And to top it off, he went to Wisconsin on Sunday and won the Slinger Nationals.
Should NASCAR and/or Bruton Smith compensate those fans who didn't make it into the race like what the NFL and Jerry Jones did from the super bowl seat fiasco? I think they should.
Ryan McGee (2:29 PM)
What's interesting is that other racetracks are stepping up to do that. Michigan and Indianapolis (two track who have openly complained that a Kentucky Cup race would cut into their business) are working on deals to help those who were jilted by their Kentucky experience. And Talladega already pounced on Kentucky in a press release.
Ryan McGee (2:30 PM)
We're headed to another SMI track this weekend, New Hampshire. I'll be curious to see if Bruton shows up.
Do you think a championship battle between Harvick, Johnson and Kyle Busch in the Chase would change opinions of the Chase? Especially since Harvick and Bush have stated their hate for each other.
Ryan McGee (2:31 PM)
I think opinions on the Chase started to turn last year with the Johnson/Hamlin/Harvick battle at Homestead. But yes, a three-way battle with any drivers, but particularly two that don't like each other, would help.
Larry (Granite City,Il)
5 top drivers for Loudon and any dark hores?
Ryan McGee (2:33 PM)
How about Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson, Kurt, and Harvick. Darkhorses: Bowyer & Burton.
Ryan, can JPM get it done at one of the next few races? he has been good if not better at the next four tracks... but is it time to panic if he doesnt get it done by then?
Ryan McGee (2:35 PM)
He can. And yes, if he does not it is time to panic. I have always said that the races leading into the Chase are custom made for a JPM push - Pocono, Indy, Bristol, Watkins Glen, Atlanta, he's good at them all. But he has to throw Hail Marys and go for wins. He's really too far behind 10th now to make it into the Chase via points. He needs wins.
Jim (South Carolina)
whats your favorite road course?
Ryan McGee (2:36 PM)
I really do like them all. I love Montreal, but unfortunately it sounds like they might be dropped from the schedule soon if the city doesn't come up with some cash to save their Nationwide race. You'd think they would after the traumatic experience the city went through when they had to do without F1. I was at the return of the Canadian Grand Prix last year and there was a visible look of relief on everyone's faces.
I am worried about the 11 making the chase, should I be?
Ryan McGee (2:37 PM)
No. Yes, he just now got up into the top ten, but he's headed in the right direction. Some of the guys he's battling with are not. Plus I think he wins at least one more race before the Chase, maybe even two or three.
How many drivers do you think are "locks" for the Chase right now?
Ryan McGee (2:40 PM)
I think the top 8 are good. The gaps between them and the next two groups are getting pretty large. I think Hamlin is good.
Ryan McGee (2:41 PM)
What's interesting is that I think Keselowski and Ragan are in better shape right now than guys like Stewart and Montoya and Biffle, even though they trail them in points. They have momentum and more importantly they each have a win.
Is Dave Rogers the next Chad Knaus? He seems like one sharp cookie. And is there any driver in the garage that is more technically saavy about the cars than Kyle? He seems like the kind of dude who could succeed as a CC after he's done driving.
Ryan McGee (2:43 PM)
That buzz has surrounded Rogers for a long time. He was so good in the Nationwide Series. Sometimes that doesn't translate to Cup, but in his case it certainly has. As for Kyle, his father and brother have told me on multiple occasions that if he hadn't been a driver he would have been an all-star Cup crew chief. When I asked him about that he just chuckled and smiled. I took that as a yes.
David Ragan in our out of the chase after richmond?
Ryan McGee (2:43 PM)
What are the chances that Smoke goes into eff-you mode and starts knocking people around, doing his best Sr. impression?
Ryan McGee (2:44 PM)
Well, he's already done it a little (see: Vickers, Brian) and has promised to do it more. But right now his team needs to figure out how to get up near the front regularly so he can flex that muscle where it counts.
Luke (Henderson, NV)
Ryan, do you think Kurt and Kyle will take the championship battle down to the final race at Homestead?
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
I really do. I think Kurt is quiet giant in all of this. He has shown signs of being pretty powerful.
Seems like the 24 is very strong at the flat tracks this year..You think Gordon can win Loudon or Indy in a few weeks??
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
Yes. I think he's one of the favorites this weekend. And he's always one of the faves at Indy.
Mike (I-71 Still)
So where has THAT David Reuttiman been all year??
Ryan McGee (2:47 PM)
That's the same thing he said after the race! He's shown flashes of that this year, really throughout his whole Cup career, but right now MWR just isn't in a position to keep Reut or Truex up front consistently.
Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch are the three active drivers who are amoung the youngest winners in NASCAR (Joey holds the record). Will any of them stay in the sport and be competitive enough to someday break Harry Gant's record for oldest winner? Will Mark Martin break that record first?
Ryan McGee (2:48 PM)
No, I think these guys are making so much money now and their yearly schedules are so demanding that we won't see guys hanging around as long as Harry's generation did.
Ryan McGee (2:48 PM)
As for Mark, I think he still has some winning in him. But I really think he needs to take care of business this year before he leaves Hendrick.
Ron (Green River, WY)
Any new info on Edwards and JGR? I think GameStop could move up to Cup and stick with Logano and a 4th team, they seem very happy with him.
Ryan McGee (2:50 PM)
1. I don't think GameStop could handle a Cup budget on their own, but they could certainly be a part of something with Joey.
Ryan McGee (2:51 PM)
2. I know Carl paid a visit to JGR last week and I know JGR is fiddling with their numbers to try and free up some more cash to sign him. I think that's one of the reasons we keep hearing about JGR shutting down its engine program and going with TRD, to save $ to the bottom line to sign Carl. But again, I don't think they're doing that.
bowyer really struggled at kentucky. can he turn it around at loudon? does he make the chase?
Ryan McGee (2:52 PM)
He's a two-time winner at Loudon, but right now I don't like the direction he's headed.
Of the remaining races before the chase, how do you think Jr. will do at those races, he needs to turn it around, do the tracks favor that possibility?
Ryan McGee (2:52 PM)
Bristol, Richmond, Atlanta.
Look at all the dudes who average more than 2 wins a season for their career. They're all at HMS or JGR with the exception of Carl Edwards (Smoke was with JGR when he was averaging lots of wins). Just imagine what Carl would do in a JGR ride. I don't think it's gonna happen though. Does anyone really beleive that it will?
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
Those are good stats. And a good point. Personally, I think he'll stay at Roush. Though professionally, I'm a big fan of guys changing scenery from time-to-time to put a little wind in their sails.
Ryan, no more vacation from this Monday chat forum between now and the end of the season. You're my favorite chat host! Then David Newton.
Ryan McGee (2:55 PM)
I like you Karen. I think I'll miss one more this summer, then we should be good!
People everywhere (Kentucky)
Hey! No parking in here!
Come on McGee, isnt it time we start Blasting Bruton Smith to do awat with the progressive banking in Bristol, and bring back good old fashion racing? No one would complain about the ticket prices then!
Ryan McGee (2:56 PM)
I will say this. Whenever he starts monkeying with tracks (see levigating at Charlotte) the results are usually not good.
Ryan, some people are starting to write Carl off because he hasn't won in a while. His three worst finishes this year were due to being wrecked and one engine problem. In all three of those races (Phx, Pocono, Daytona) he was running top 3. Do you see Carl getting a few wins before the chase starts?
Ryan McGee (2:58 PM)
Yes, he's fine. I still think he's one of the top five title contenders. Keep in mind that those top teams who are pretty much locked into the Chase are fiddling with things right now to get ready for the Chase. We'll have a lot of that this weekend because New Hampshire is a Chase track. Those teams typically stand back on the gas at Indy. If the 99 is still wonky after that, then you can worry.
In honor of Jeter..who is NASCAR's Jeter? Gotta go with J. Gordon?
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
That's a good comparison. And in this week's Power Rankings I compare Matt Kenseth to Johnny Damon. When he retires we'll look at their career numbers and go, "Damn, these are great stats!"
How desperate would you say that Ford is for Carl to stay under their umbrella. Honestly, outside of Trevor and possibly AJ, who would they put a lot of their marketing efforts behind. No disrespect to Kenseth or Biffle.
Ryan McGee (3:01 PM)
Pretty desperate. And I think they are salivating over a potential future with Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, but those kids need a couple more years of seasoning.
Ryan McGee (3:03 PM)
Alright folks, gotta go. Be sure to check out NASCAR Now tonight (ESPN2, 5 pm ET) when my man Terry Blount is going to light up the folks who made him and everyone else sit on I-71 all weekend. I'll see you on the show this Wednesday. Until then, tip the wait staff and enjoy one more week of Clarence Clemons tunes as I continue to honor the Big Man.