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February 20, 1:30 PM ET
Chat with Ed Hinton

Ed Hinton
  (1:00 PM)

Hi, all. Let's get started. A couple of you have asked about the new F1 team that's trying to get going in Charlotte. We'll deal with those questions as we go along.

Ed Hinton
  (1:00 PM)

But first . . .

Kyle Dover,Ohio [via mobile]

What are Matt Kenseths chances at a 3 peat to start out the year ? Do you think my man Biffle can win the championship ?

Ed Hinton
  (1:02 PM)

They're actually quite good. The key was Fontana last week, where he showed he can win on intermediate tracks. He's won twice before at Vegas, and although I believe that was before reconfiguration of the track, his strength on intermediates in general now could carry him. I'd rate him about 9/5 to three peat.

Steiny (NYC)

Do you think Montoya and Speed have any interest in a possible US-based F1 team?

Ed Hinton
  (1:05 PM)

I can't see how they would, because both know the realities of F1 -- especially Montoya. I've known Peter Windsor a long time, and he has always longed to start and F1 team. He tried once before, in England/Switzerland. But I just can't imagine how he can adequately finance such a team. You're looking at about $400 million a year, just to be competitive. The other factor is geography. How is he going to get in on the F1 transport system from Charlotte, when the cars normally ship out of London in two 747s? I can't see Bernie sending a cargo plane to Charlotte to pick up this marginal, upstart team.

Tom (DC)

In your opinion, will Kyle ever try Formula One?

Ed Hinton
  (1:08 PM)

Not unless he's nuts. First, there are all the above-mentioned issues with the upstart "USF1" team. So even Montoya would be taking a flying leap of faith with that. Second, fabulous as Kyle Busch is in a stock car, we have no evidence whatsoever that he could be competitive in open-wheel, ESPECIALLY the most sophisticated open-wheel cars there are, in F1. I think they were throwing out his name just to get attention. Same as Danica, who said she was flattered but hadn't even been asked. Believe me, folks, with all due respect to Peter Windsor, I would be flabbergasted if this team turns out to be anything more than a non-starter.

Ed Hinton
  (1:09 PM)

Now i'm going to post the same question from two people, then answer it.

Ralph (New Jersey)

Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. need a new crew chief?

Steiny (NYC)

Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. need a new crew chief?

Ed Hinton
  (1:13 PM)

I think Dale Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. would both do better working for a different driver and a different crew chief, respectively. Their relationship goes too far back, to childhood. They've been arguing ever since they were playing in sandboxes together. Teresa tried to separate them once before, and neither of them liked it. They're each other's security blanket -- although I think Dale Jr. would be more resistant to racing without Tony Jr. than vice versa. I think Junior could benefit greatly from a nuturing sort of crew chief -- a Bob Osborne, like Edwards has at Roush. I think Tony Jr. could win a lot of races with a driver who wasn't complaining to him all the time, like they were kids. But I don't see Junior letting go of Tony Jr. any time soon.

nick jennette daytona [via mobile]

with dale jr on the bubble is the sports favorite son in danger of having to race his way into a race?

Ed Hinton
  (1:16 PM)

Well, he's got three more races to go with the safety net of last year's points. He'd have to continue to have disasters, the way he's opened, to get into that sort of trouble. But if he does, look out. He's never claimed to be much of a qualifier. I'm not saying he's going to miss a race, but if he should, it could be a downward spiral of frustration. And it would, of course, be the hottest ongoing headline in NASCAR. There would be untold yammering back and forth between JuniorNation and the growing waves of AntiJuniorNation.

Aaron Erie PA

Why isnt Casey Mears competive and always out of the chase? He has been with really competitive teams the last 2 seasons. Is it his driving style, constantlying changing teams, or just plain not enough talent?

Ed Hinton
  (1:18 PM)

We may finally get an answer this season. Jeff Burton is really high on Casey and says he can win, but that RCR has to put him in position to win. If RCR can't pull it off, with the high-profile Jack Daniel's ride in which Bowyer did well, then . . . well . . . the only common denominator will look more and more like . . . Casey.

jason (nebraska)

why dont nascars have blinkers

Ed Hinton
  (1:20 PM)

Looks like a stick and baller sneaking in, but I'll answer. If they had blinkers they wouldn't wreck so much, wouldn't have anything to argue about, and then where would we be?

D. Earnhardt (Heaven)

Steiny really needs to get a life cause he is on every chat.

Ed Hinton
  (1:22 PM)

Yeah, but you gotta admire Steiny's persistence. Every time I check the queue an hour before my chats, Steiny's there with multiple questions. A man that determined deserves answering once in a while. Plus, can you imagine how lonely he is, as a NASCAR fan in NYC?

Chase (Atlanta)

Obvious, the 88 has the largest fan base. Who would you say are the next 4 drivers with the biggest fan bases?

Ed Hinton
  (1:23 PM)

Well, let's see . . .Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart . . . then next would be difficult to call. Maybe Mark Martin, but Kasey Kahne seems to have quite a fan base, especially among the ladies and/or college students.

Cory, Geneva, IL

Does Junior finish top 10 this week to quiet the critics?

Ed Hinton
  (1:25 PM)

Junior needs to finish in the top 10 every week just to get started on quieting the critics. He needs to win outright for weeks on end to quiet the critics. And even then, AntiJuniorNation would howl that NASCAR is somehow handing him the wins. Bottom line, Junior needs to win an awful lot, over a period of time, to quiet the critics. Nobody is more aware of that than he is. Why do you think he's so ornery so much of the time?

Marc (Malden, MA)

And this is where Rick Hendrick needs to start being the boss. I'm not a Jr. fan, but he shouldn't dictate who is crew chief is when it clearly isn't working. Hendrick needs to step in and separate them.

Ed Hinton
  (1:29 PM)

You raise an interesting point. Rick is a man of great, but not infinite, patience. He's been very happy so far to have Junior not only on a personal but a financial basis -- the most popular driver sells the most stuff and draws the most sponsorship. But sooner or later, Dale Jr. and Rick are going to reach the same conclusion -- that they've got to win to sustain all the popularity. I think if Rick separated Dale Jr. and Tony Jr., he would do it in a very careful way. I'd like to see Rick put Tony Jr. with Mark Martin -- I think they could win together. And Dale Jr. with Alan Gustafson, who at least would take a different approach with Junior than listening to him howl on the radio.

Coop (Orlando)

If Dale Jr. wasnt related to Dale Sr, would he even have a ride?

Ed Hinton
  (1:35 PM)

That's a dangerous question to try to answer. If he weren't Dale Sr.'s son, I doubt he would ever have been put in late models on Carolina short tracks to begin with. Now, once he got into Busch and started winning championships, I think he would have gotten a ride no matter what his name was. Question is, would he ever have gotten to that level? The other big question is, would he have ever WANTED to race if he hadn't been Dale Sr.'s son, and been trying to gain his father's attention and approval?

Nate, Nebraska

Ed, I've been really impressed with Tommy Baldwin and Scott Riggs, well cause Im a BIG fan of Scott's but do you see them carrying this over the entire season, since Tommy is a veteran in this sports and the hunger Scott Drives with?

Ed Hinton
  (1:37 PM)

As I've said on all ESPN platforms, I think this is the year for the gutsy independent who's willing to rise by the bootstraps. I'm not saying Tommy and Scott will make the Chase, but I am saying they could hang in there a long time, considering the money they make for making the field. Same goes for Jeremy Mayfield. This is good stuff, people! NASCAR's back to being what it was meant to be -- the sport of the common man who's willing to work his tail off.

Paul ((Canton))

Who is the best driver from the last 20 years of racing?

Ed Hinton
  (1:39 PM)

Put it this way: Best of the past 20 years is Jeff Gordon. But best of the last eight years is Jimmie Johnson. Best of the last year is Carl Edwards -- who, even though he didn't win the championship in '08, was the best, most consistent, most exciting driver, start to finish. How's that for dodging a direct question? But if you pin me to the last 20 years, I gotta say Gordon. Earnhardt Sr. was far greater in the '80s than he was in the '90s.

Sam ( AZ)

Do you think Roush is a bit torn that his blue collar, low key driver has come out of the gates red hot, and not his marketing tool/driver Edwards? Also, do you think that Edwards may be a bit bitter that kenseth reclaimed Drew and they are on a roll ?

Ed Hinton
  (1:41 PM)

VERY interesting question. Roush sure does glory in Edwards' winning. But Roush has seemed very happy the past couple of weeks, too. I guess if you reached deep beneath the hat, you'd find a soft spot for Edwards. But one thing about Roush: he'll take winning, period. So if his enthusiasm for Kenseth had waned, you can bet it's rekindled now.

Josh, Dallas

Shouldn't Hendrick park Junior for 6 races and put Skinner in the 88 so Hendrick can figure out if the problem is driver or car?

Ed Hinton
  (1:44 PM)

I was at first stunned by this question. But I'll tell you what: to fire up interest in NASCAR, and even have Brian Williams ranting about it (he's a big NASCAR fan) on NBC Nightly News, all Hendrick has got to do is park Junior for six races in favor of ANY driver. And, as eager to refire interest as NASCAR is . . . are you listening, Brian France?

Bob (Chicago, IL)

What is the problem with Kasey Kahne this season. He seems to be having a harder time so far this season compared to the other drivers at RPM(by the way was the name intentional, so that they could have a really cool acronym? )

Ed Hinton
  (1:45 PM)

I think the loss of Ray Evernham has been huge for Kasey. Ray was his mentor, as he was for Jeff Gordon. Now you have a slammed-together team and people who may or may not understand what makes Kasey tick -- plus, he has all the burden of the attention and the big sponsorship.

Jordan (Candor, NC)

Mr Hinton, Do you think there's a snowball's chance in hades racing ever returns to "The Rock" in the form of Trucks or Nationwide series?

Ed Hinton
  (1:46 PM)

Depends on how much, how soon, NASCAR listens to its fans about getting back to basics. I think there is a chance, but NASCAR's attitude is going to have to be rattled a lot more, maybe over a period of years.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Though Earnhardt Sr. did win 4 Cup Titles in the 90s.

Ed Hinton
  (1:49 PM)

Yeah, but he won after the competition was killed or injured out. Davey Allison in '93, Ernie Irvan in '94. Earnhardt had tougher competition for his early championships than his late ones. This'll make you mad, but I doubt seriously Earnhardt would have won the seventh in '94 had Irvan not been badly injured. Irvan was in the process of running him down, breathing down his neck, in the points, when the Michigan wreck occurred.

Johnny (NYC, NY)

Where is the best place the hang this weekend to see NASCAR drivers and other people? Anything away from the track you'd recommend checking out???

Ed Hinton
  (1:51 PM)

Alas, there just aren't such places away from the track anymore. Drivers don't go hang out and party with the media, the other teams, and the fans like they used to. Best suggestion I can offer is the track. Even if you caught one around a casino, he'd probably be by himself with his entourage, not with a whole racing group.

Sven (Seattle, WA)

Why would Hendrick park a car during a race? What a waste of money!!!

Ed Hinton
  (1:51 PM)

Oh, we were just carrying it to the absurd, Sven. Would never happen. But what a hoot if it did.

wickett (maine)

have you ever considered switching over to rally sport? where you are driving on windy difficult terrain where you are timed? instead of driving around in a circle?

Ed Hinton
  (1:53 PM)

I've admired rally drivers for a long time. Once considered doing the Paris-Dakar Rally, and the Baja 1000, myself. Trouble is, it's not much of a spectator sport. And wherever spectators CAN find a spot to watch, they seem to be in danger. Remember all the terrible accidents with cars hitting spectators in Europe over the years? It's a great challenge, but, like mountain climbing, isn't very spectator friendly.

Josh, Dallas

What does the "A" in NASCAR stand for?

Ed Hinton
  (1:55 PM)

"A" stands for "Auto." Yes, it's redundant -- National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. But it's pretty good for a bunch of rough, tough racing barons sitting around a stuffy hotel smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey in 1947, wouldn't you agree?

Josh, Dallas

When Gordon came in and beat down Earnhardt Sr. did the fans hate Gordon as much as the fans hate Kyle Busch for beating down Gordon and Stewart now?

Ed Hinton
  (1:56 PM)

Oh, Lord, Josh, you have no idea!! They hated Gordon about 2,000 times as much as they hate Kyle Busch now. It isn't even close.

steve(sc)

scale of 1-10..... how OVER-RATED is denny hamlin?

Ed Hinton
  (1:57 PM)

Denny Hamlin is not over-rated. He is underrated -- by his own team, if you ask me. If they ever gave him the 100 percent commitment they gave Stewart and now Kyle Busch, and gave Denny a pit crew that could get out of its own way, he'd be a legitimate star by now. You may think he complains too much. I don't see how he's able to bite his tongue in the face of such adversity.

Josh, Dallas

Stewart-Haas uses Hendrick chassis, Hendrick motors and all the team members are Hendrick or ex-DEI What is Stewart in this organization?

Ed Hinton
  (1:59 PM)

Tony Stewart is a lot like a head coach in college football. He gets to field all the questions, gets to make the top-level decisions. But in every area -- car prep, engines, administration, everything -- there are others doing the day to day jobs.

TG

People seem to criticize Junior for spending time with his friends at his ranch or visiting his Whisky River bar. Well what do all the other drivers do Mon-Thurs when they aren't at the race track?

Ed Hinton
  (2:01 PM)

One more, then gotta go. When you get down to it, whether you're spending time at Whiskey River or spending time with your toddler daughter, you're spending time away from the car and the crew. I don't fault either Junior or Gordon for spending some time on their own, either way. Think about it: wouldn't you go crazy if you were with the car 24/7, 365?

Ed Hinton
  (2:02 PM)

Take care, y'all. It's been a lot of fun. Wish I could answer more. But gotta go.