What's up my wine and cheese covered brothers and sisters? Welcome to the worldwide interweb's biggest and baddest (pretty sure only) one-hour Monday afternoon motorsports block party. I am back in the homeland after a trip up to Montreal for the F1 Canadian GP, spent last night and this morning breaking down the weekend's three NASCAR races and I am ready to get my NASCAR chat on! To the queries!
Who do you see being in the #5 in 2011, Mark Martin or Kasey Kahne.
Martin. That's the one piece of the Kahne puzzle that I have always been pretty sure about. Mark has been adamant about the fact that the 5 is his car and his team and he wants to finish out the final year of his deal - 2011 - in that car. The latest report has Kahne in a James Finch car essentially fielded by Hendrick, but there's a lot of heavy-lifting that'd have to be done to make that happen.
Was just at the Kentucky Speedway Nationwide race over the weekend. What's the Sprint Cup situation for the track, 2011, 2012, never?
First, props to Kentucky for selling a lot of tickets for that race. It wasn't a sellout by any means, but compare it to the other Nationwide races this year, particularly Charlotte and the stand-alone at Nashville, and you'll realize that it was a very good crowd.
Second, for a while it looked like Kentucky might get a Cup race in '11, but it's looking more like '12 now at the earliest. It's going to happen, just a matter of when.
Do you or anyone for that matter think that Nascar needs to get rid of one of the Pocono races and add Kentucky or one of the other tracks that aren't currnetly on the circuit. I think that Pocono is one of the most boring tracks on the schedule and for them to continue to have 2 races year in and year out I think is hurting the sport. What's your take on this?
You are not alone on this. Not even close. But the Mattioli family that own the track are good people and have been very close to the France family for a very long time, so losing a race doesn't seem likely, especially with places like Atlanta and Fontana coming up so much more empty when it comes to ticket sales. To me, the first step to recovery for Pocono would be shorten their races to 400 miles or less.
Ryan, Did you SEE the debris that brought out the last caution yesterday in Michigan. IF so, what was it and if not, is Nascar back to thier old tricks?
I did not see it, but a lot of drivers were asked about it after the fact and they all had little doubt about it. Besides, even if it was a phantom debris caution I had no problem with it. It saved the day.
Hey Ryan, When is NASCAR going to finally take a race from MIS? How many snore fests do we have to we have to endure? I would really like to see one of the old tracks get a race North Wilksborough, North Carolina Speedway ect. MIS is my home track and after watching a race finish in 1 hour 58 min. vowed to never go through all the BS for a 2 hour race. Do you think making it a 500 mile race would do anything to improve the racing?
It'll never happen. The teams and drivers love that place, usually for the same reasons that fans get bored - lots of racing room, few cautions, etc. But it is also a showplace for Ford, GM, and Dodge in nearby Detroit. You can't underestimate the power of corporate showcase abilities. Ford alone spend millions during each race week for Fan Fest, etc...
And NO lengthening the races is not the answer. We used to run 500-milers up there. You think the 400-milers can get strung out...sheesh. I think all races should be shortened, not just Pocono and Michigan.
I thought that Danica Patrick was supposed to replace Mark Martin in the GoDaddy.com 5 car in 2012? What happened?
Kasey Kahne became available!
Do you think Casey Mears has a legitimate shot at Scott Speed's ride next year?
Not if he keeps wrecking Scott Speed's ride. That was brutal.
Mr H was hanging out with Junior a whole lot more this weekend than usual. Is he just being nice to Junior to butter him up for replacing him with Kasey Kahne next year?
Hahaha! No, Mr. H is admittedly losing sleep over the struggles of the 88. That was a show of support as well as a "I'm going to hang out here until y'all start playing nice" move. Keep in mind, all of the Hendrick cars are struggling right now, not just Junior. And he is up 14th in points, less than 90 out of the Chase. That's a helluva lot better than last year.
Do you think Kasey Kahne coming over to HMS has effected the 5 team or more specifically Mark Martin? Once again he was hardly mentioned yesterday and never ran up towards the top 10.
There is no doubt. And the spoiler hasn't helped, either.
Bring back the Asheville Speedway!!!!
Hells yeah! I once watched Robert Pressley and his family beat the crap out of some poor guy up there one night nearly 20 years ago. He probably deserved it.
Ryan, loved your article about Edsel Ford.Are there any other auto industry higher-ups who make regular visits to NASCAR tracks?
Thanks John! What a great guy, just a car guy, you know? If you ran into him on the street you'd never know he was a billionaire and a member of one of the most famous families in the world.
As for auto execs, there are too many to count at nearly every race, especially the big ones. At Daytona everyone you can list is there on race day.
Ryan, are you and your NASCAR sportswriters possey going to gather at Gene's again the weekend of July 3rd?
Yo Tom! There won't be as large of a contingent as we had when we saw you back in February, but yes, those of us down there will definitely be eating red meat and looking at racing memorabilia this July. As for the full-on group, we'll be back in Feb.
With Bruton landing an Indy car gig in 2011 for New Hampshire... clearly ego-driven, not for the wellbeing of the sport...and the jump from Indy to NASCAR and vice-versa, do you see a more melding of at least the management groups in NASCAR and Indy becoming more prevalent in the future?
Good question Clay. I think we're going to have a medling, it's just a question of where it's going go. All indications are that IndyCar is going to be making a move away from the France family's ISC-owned tracks in favor of Bruton Smith's SMI tracks. Why? Because it has a long been a complaint from the IRL set that ISC tracks will always skimp when it comes to promoting their races vs. NASCAR races. I don't know if that's completely valid or not, but that's how they feel. I would hate to see that, especially if they left Chicagoland, which has hosted some amazing IndyCar races in the past.
Who are your top 5 for this weekend Sonoma race??!!
How about Montoya, Gordon, Smoke, Harvick, Ambrose, and for a dark horse Clint Bowyer.
Do you see Jr winning anytime this year. if so when and where.
Well, we come back to Michigan in a just a few weeks. Also, I always like him during that Atlanta-Bristol-Richmond stretch each spring and fall. And don't forget Daytona and Talladega. I think the odds of him winning are pretty good. And when he does the fans might tear the grandstands down in relief.
Does NASCAR dictate to the networks not to show the grandstands when there a few fans at the race. In years past I remember seeing a lot more shots of people in the grandstands, they have become fewer and fewer along with the number of fans attending the races and seem to be long distance camera shots. Don't think it's my imagination anymore.
All I can tell you is this. I was motorsports TV producer for nearly 15 years and I never received as much as a phone call or email about showing empty seats. Not even when I worked for NASCAR Media Group. Not saying it doesn't happen now, but I can tell you that it hadn't happened before.
What do you make of the F1 tire and refueling rules this season...I wasn't so sure it worked for the Canada race...
Wow...an F1 question! Since I waas there I feel obligated to answer!
I had my doubts about the no-refuel rules at the start of the year, but I have no problem with it now. I haven't missed it at all and no one has ended up set on fire, so that's a good thing. As for the tires, it just seems to create a lot of confusion doesn't it? I think it got exposed a little at Canada vs. other places because the racing there is always good. At places like Turkey you need the tire rule to make it interesting.
All that said, I thought that was as racy of an F1 event as I've seen in a while.
How many pointless Jr. questions do you get a week?
In the chat, on Twitter, via email, or in the airport? Because I get them everywhere I go.
How many more races will Cassill be in the 09, and do you think that is proof of Hendrick trying to get Phoenix Racing for Kahne
He says he hopes to do a few more. And yes, it probably is a good indicator.
RYAN, OBVIOUSLY DENNY IS ON TOP OF HIS GAME RIGHT NOW. WITH WHAT HAPPENED TO KYLE A COUPLE YEARS AGO IN FLOPPING IN THE CHASE, DO YOU THINK IT WILL HAPPEN TO HAMLIN TOO? IS HE PEAKING TOO SOON?
You know Jammer I have heard more about that today than I expected. And a lot of it is coming from his rivals. I thought Jeff Gordon took a couple of particularly skillful jabs on that topic in the Michigan post-race. Certainly we have seen guys like Kyle, Stewart, and before he started winning Cups, Jimmie Johnson, who did a lot of damage early and then faded late. We'll see. I'd rather have that problem than not. You get more trophies and cash that way.
Gas or Charcoal?
Charcoal. But I keep a gasser on the ready when time is tight.
How does ESPN/ABC do with ratings when they broadcast the latter part of the season?
Pretty well. There is always a bit of a hit when football starts in September, but then a little bit of a rebound for the season finale. Honestly, it has a lot to do with how Junior is doing. NASCAR's ratings issues aren't unlike the PGA with Tiger. There's a lot of gallery/audience tied up in one guy.
Ryan, First, welcome home. You talked about the weak attendence at the stand alone nashville race. I'm just a few hours away and a huge fan of both series but can Nashville really expect patrons to pay $55 to $75 to attend? This seems outragous when you consider that Talladega lets you spend 4 or 5 nights in the infield for $110. Much better show down south, Wouldn't you agree this is outlandish?
Yes I would. And I think Atlanta also suffers for being in Talladega's orbit. And for all of the talk about Kentucky getting a Cup race, I hope that it doesn't suffer from similar market crossover, specifically Indianapolis.
Why does Nascar allow a part-time driver as old as Bill Elliott race? Isn't that dangerous to the other drivers?
Not if it's Bill Elliott. He does more with second-tier equipment than most people half his age could do.
With Scotty Speed's F1 experience do you expect Scotty to score a top 5 at Infineon?
I think he has an outside shot at it, certainly a top ten. Last year really isn't a good measuring stick because it was his first go-round in Cup cars. I think Scott has a lot of talent, but I also think he needs to start clicking soon. But as we learned with Montoya and Ambrose it takes about two full seasons to finally "get it".
Since Kyle won both Infineon and The Glenn in 2008 doesn't Kyle have to be considered the favorite to win Sunday?
Yes! And I think I left him off my list earlier.
Afternoon Ryan, Will we have any "Road Course Ringers" at Infineon this week????? How do you think they will perform?????
We will have some and, as usual, I think they will make a lot of noise and some will slip into the top ten but none of them will win the race. For all the hype about them each year I road course ringer hasn't won a Cup race since Mark Donohue did it back in the early 1970's.
I talked to Boris Said about this last year and he said that during his decade of being a hired gun he has been blown away at the rise in talent level with the Cup regulars. He said there used to only be maybe five good ones and now there are as many as 15-20 that really know what they are doing.
Two guys to keep an eye on are Jan Magnussen, the former F1 racer, who will be in the Phoenix Racing car, and Mattias Eckstrom, who will be in the 83 Red Bull ride. Eckstrom is a touring car driver and I watched him hand Michael Schumacher his walking papers at the Race of Champions back in '07.
Ryan, what's your opinion on these Natiowide teams struggling for lack of sponsorship. I just read that's happening to Baker Curb. I'm a big fan of the young Scott Lagasse Jr and it looks like he won't be able to finish a full schedule again this year. Is this hurting the future talent of the Cup series at all?
No doubt about it. And it's true for the Truck Series. Think about the guys we have seen come up ladder like the Buschs, Biffle, Edwards, Junior, Kenseth...I don't know if that direct ladder exists anymore. And it's because of sponsorship woes. A Baker-Curb that you would love to see hire a young guy full-time has to put Biffle in the car just to attract sponsors. And there's no way for young guys to get any career momentum going being in and out rides week-to-week.
And problem #2 is that the purse money in Nationwide is "a joke". Those aren't my words. They're team owner Dale Junior's.
Do you read the ESPN boards. There is a guy that a lot of people call Octo. He has posted the questions from Eugene, Colin, and Fabio.
Yeah, I know about Octo. He clearly has more time on his hands than I do. Then again, he has eight hands, so...there you go.
So McGee, based on your earlier comment about the caution saving the day, do you actually prefer a caution, even if it is a phantom one, to a driver stinking up the show? Granted, it's not a fun race when someone dominates, but it's not their fault they're that much better than everyone else. It wasn't Ned Jarrett's fault he lapped the field 14 times at Darlington!
I know, Ed. It's a tough spot. But during a stunk-up show I have been known to sit in the press box and contemplate throwing my laptop onto the track to stay awake.
How long do we have before Petty Motorsports folds?
Matt, it's touchy, there's no doubt. I wrote this in the Power Rankings a couple of weeks ago and I really believe it - A.J. Allmendinger's performance may be the deciding factor in all of this. He's young, marketable, and sponsors love him. If he can stay relevant on the racetrack he's an easy sell for the RPM folks. If not, it doesn't look good does it?
By the way, after I posted that the Dinger's Mom sent me a Tweet jokingly saying that I was putting too much pressure on her kid. I thought that was pretty cool of her.
Hey Ryan, hope you enjoyed your time in Montreal. That was a really good race. Do you think they will ever have a Cup race there?
I did! (A little too good Friday night.) I don't think they'll ever get one but I sure wish they would. Canada deserves a Cup race. For now - and I told a lot of race fans this over the weekend - make sure those Nationwide races get big crowds and make it impossible for them to ignore you!
Ryan, thanks for your response to Colin (PA) on Bill Elliott. If Bill was in top tier equipment running full-time I do believe he would challenge for some wins. The guy can still drive!
There's no doubt. I had a great discussion with the Wood Brothers - the original old guys - about Bill and they said the same thing. And I think those dudes know a little about recognizing driving talent! I'll always wonder how much better Bill's stats would have been had he not fallen into the driver-owner trap that ate so many heroes in the 1990's.
Ryan, I'm about to head to Charlottesville for Game 3 against the Sooners... Who do you think will be the last team to punch their ticket to Omaha?
Oh man...I had the Cavs all along in that one, so I'll stick with them. I really wanted to drive down to Clemson today for their deciding game with Bama, but I was just too tired from Montreal.
Pemberton said that in addition to the splitter changes for next year, we're going to see styling changes to increase manufacturer identity in 2012 or 2013. Any idea what form those changes might take?
First step is that the braces are going away, the metal straps that currently hold the splitter/shelf up to the bumper. They are going to test some new pieces in an effort to push the Cup car toward the new Nationwide designs that will debut at Daytona in July. Those cars are wicked...and they have some distinctive brand markings/shape instead of just stickers.
That was one of the things that Edsel Ford II talked so frankly to me about in the ESPN.com story and ESPN.com Insider blog I wrote last week, that the brand uniqueness had been lost over the last few years. I think its of huge importance to get that back in the game.
Alright folks...we finished strong and I apologize for not getting to everyone. They started coming in pretty hot and heavy there at the end. If you have more questions hit me up on Twitter (@ryammcgeeespn) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, tip your wait staff and enjoy the music of the late, great Jimmy Dean...Big Bad John forever!