Hello my deep dish pizza-stained brothers and sisters and welcome back to the worldwide interweb's biggest and baddest one-hour Monday afternoon motorsports block party. After a two-week hiatus we're back and ready to rip. Thanks to my lead-in, the very fast and very bald Geoff Bodine.
We're here in Bristol, CT prepping for tonight's roundtable NASCAR Now with Ricky Craven and Nicole Briscoe (5 PM ET, ESPN2). But for now, let's get on with the queries!
D. Reut! D. Reut! D. Reut is on fire! Seriously, what a lot of people don't mention is that if it weren't for three engine failures early in the season, this guy would have been in the top 12 before the win. Now, he's got seven races to get in, but one is a road course - something he's not all that confident in. Do you think he can make it?
We just had this very conversation at our NASCAR Now production meeting/lunch. I do think he can make it. And you are right. With any luck he would already be back where he was a year ago, right in the thick of the Chase fight.
All you need to know about Reut as a man is how everyone reacted to his win on Saturday night. Everyone, even Edwards and Gordon, the guys who couldn't catch him, were clearly happy for him.
One thing that's going to help his Chase chances is the fact that there are two short tracks between now and then - Bristol & Richmond - and he's still a short track guy at heart.
One aspect of MWR that few talk about but has been a huge factor this year has been their pit stops. They've been wicked quick all year.
You heard it here: Tony @ Indy and Watkins Glen. Mark it down.
Alright. I have it marked down. But I also think that Gordon could win them both.
Can Jeff Gordon win the championship without winning a race?
Flukie! My childhood hero! I used to stop by Flukie's service station when I was a kid. Legendary local racer in Rockingham!
But no, Gordon can't. Thanks to the Chase you definitely have to win at least a handful of races to win the Chase.
Since the Chase started in 2004 the champs have all won multiple races, even before the bonus points for wins rule went into effect.
2004: Busch, 4. 2005: Smoke, 5. 2006: Jimmie, 5. 6. 2007: Jimmie, 10. 2008. Jimmie, 7. 2009: Jimmie, 7.
Wow. Jimmie is good.
Hello, Ryan! Finally...FINALLY Carl ran where he is supposed to be running Saturday night. Do you think that they finally figured out the geometry issues on their cars, and do you see their momentum carrying over to Indy?
I think you are right Emily, they seem to have hit on it. Crew chief Bob Osborne admitted that they threw out all of their notes and "took ideas from our teammates". It paid off. And I think all of the Ford teams are benefitting from (finally) the full implementation of the FR9 engine...well, except Biffle, who blew up.
If Dale Jr. can make the chase, does he have a good chance of winning it?
He can make the Chase. I don't think he can win it. History says that the guys who had to fight so hard just to get in don't typically keep the momentum up all the way through November. But compared to last year, making the Chase would be a huge turnaround for those guys.
When will sponsors finally demand some kind of results for their money, for the cash-cows that are Jr. and Danica? ever? never?
They do. Don't think they aren't getting restless, because they are.
Do you think the reason Kyle and Denny aren't dominating and winning now is because they are using races as testing for the chase races?
Yes. That seems to be the case for most of the big teams that struggled on Saturday night and there were plenty. I have mixed feelings about that. Is it worth screwing with your momentum to try something you may or may not use two months from now?
Were you supprised with Dale jr. post Chicago comments about him and #88 team not being good enough to make the chase?
Nope. I think he's right. What strikes me about Junior is how high his highs are and how low his lows are. There's no middle ground for him. I think that's because there is so much attention paid to what he does and he knows that. Letting down his fan base is very personal for him.
Do you have any time table when we should expect big announcements concerning Kahne's ride and sponsorship, Harvick's sponsor, and possible deals for AJ and Menard? Seems the off week would be a good as time as any to nail this stuff down and announce at one of the "crown jewel" races
I think we'll see the annoumcements start at Indy. The first will be Reutimann's re-up with Michael Waltrip Racing. Then Harvick, then Kahne, then RPM. But those might not come down until September.
Can EGR put a piece under Montoya at Indy like they did last year, and will NASCAR actually let him win this time?
Hahaha! Still stings, doesn't it? I think they can and they will. And he'll also have very little to lose, sitting 242 pts outside of the Chase...which makes him very dangerous. And that Childress horsepower doesn't hurt either.
What is Brian Vickers current status? How's he doing? Any test runs or just relaxing and letting the stress go away?
He's doing okay. Stil bummed not to be racing but he's been true to his promise to get out and see some other forms of racing that he hadn't been able to get to because of the crazy NASCAR schedule. I saw him in Montreal at the F1 race.
No test runs. Nothing like that for six months from his initial announcement, which was in late May.
Seems strange that this is the 7th Season of the Chase...They always seem to want to tweak it- but should they have stability in the rules for the Chase era to make it easier to compare drivers from year to year?
I'm with you JD. I think messing with the Chase at this point is a huge mistake. In fact, my bosses at ESPN The Magazine asked me to come up with a 12-step plan for NASCAR recovery, ideas that I thought would help boost ratings and attendance. None of my 12 ideas involved the Chase. The story comes out later this week.
If you held a gun to my head and made me change something I would cut it back to 10 guys, the way it started. The 11th and 12th place guys never do anything anyway and I like the nice round number.
Do you think the reason Martin has running his mouth about being disgusted with the media speculation on his future and #5 because he is upset with Mr. H for creating that situation?
Yes. In this week's just-posted Power Rankings (http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/powerranking?season=2010&week=20
As a 48 fan, even though JJ finished 25th, I was excited b/c Chad said that was a new setup he had been working on for a while, and unveiled it at Chicago. A couple more tweaks, and that 48 will be bad fast come Chase time. Should I be this excited, or am I blinded by loyalty as my Gordon loving brother likes to say?
Well, he did lead 92 of the first 93 laps, so it's not like the set-up didn't work! BTW, I hate to bring this up, but his baby was born on Wednesday, he admitted he didn't sleep all week and then he made three unforced errors on Saturday night. Just saying...
If Jimmie Johnson keeps winning championships, do you think he ever decides to try an new challenge and possibly moves to F1?
Nope, I think he stays put. But I do think that if the Indy 500 ever changed their start time and made the Memorial Day double a possibility, then he'd jump at the chance to run the 500.
Doesn't the #00 win a Chicago prove that predicting cup race winners is a waste of time?
Ha! Yeah, maybe. But I will say this - ever since I did my story on the bookie at the Las Vegas Hilton who does NASCAR odds each week, one of the few who takes racing seriously, and tracking his odds each week he comes pretty close! Though he did have Reut at 40-1...
Is Nascar going to race the new Nationwide cars again this year, or does that start full time next season?
Full-time next year, but yes it will run again. Next up is Michigan on Aug. 14, then Richmond on Sept. 10 and Charlotte on Oct. 15. The Mustang and Challenger are pretty sweet looking, huh?
So you're saying once JJ gets used to living with the baby, and Chad tweaks his "baby"...they'll be dialed in come September?
Exactly! I will say this, only Jimmie would be so buttoned up as to have his child born on the week of a two-day show that he could commute to from home (via jet), followed by an off weekend.
Yo Ryan, earlier in the season I would have disagreed with you about Martin's performance being tied in with Hendrick's announcement about KK coming in...but now it seems to be the case. Once that all gets sorted out, do you see Mark starting to return to form, or is the situation too far gone? I hate to see Mark struggle like he has this year, especially after last year's run.
I think its pretty far gone. And it's not even just about the Kahne situation, it's also the fact that he feels like maybe the 5 gave up too much info/personnel-wise to the 88 during the offseason. Basically, he's not feeling the love right now from the bosses. And racers love to feel the love.
I love love.
Do you believe RPM will be around next year - albeit in some reduced form? They have been getting decent results lately out of Kahne and AJ, even Menard had a top 10 Saturday. Considering how poorly Big Brother Roush has been running all year (indicating its not all RPM's fault for the inconsistent results) with a possible turn around in the works for RFR, the new Yates power, it seems they could find some able bodies drivers/sponsors.
I think RPM's future is the biggest under-the-radar story of the season. Just a few weeks ago we were talking about it closing its doors. I think they will survive, it'll just be a smaller version. No matter what they do, they have to get Allmendinger locked up to a contract. He's the future of the franchise. He has very quietly run very well over the last seven weeks without the resources of the guys he's running with.
You referred to Carl Edwards as a "sleeping giant," but hasn't part of his problem been that he's not getting enough sleep?
If Nascar expands the chase to include the top 15 or 20 in points isn't that just a blatant method to insure that Dale jr. makes it?
It would seem that way, wouldn't it? But I think the most likely change will be some sort of elimination format, not unlike what the NHRA does in its Countdown. Even if they expand the field the include the next eight guys in points I don't think it will matter. The good teams will keep being good and the generic teams will keep being generic.
Do you buy Jimmie Johnson's reasoning that he won the road course race because he ran the grand am race and the faster cars caused time to 'slow down' for him? Also, since his plan worked, do you see other drivers doing the same to try to win at the Glen or Sonoma in the future?
I totally buy it. Just like any other sport, reps are reps. And the more laps he could run, even in a Grand Am car, has to help. I think it's too late for drivers to squeeze in more road course racing between now and Watkins Glen, but I think you'll definitely see more guys doing that before next summer's trip to Sonoma.
There was a great story in ESPN The Magazine two issues ago by my cohort Eric Morse about how NASCAR drivers are attending Bob Bondurant's road racing school to hone their left and right skills. (http://insider.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/insider/news/story?id=5298227)
Do you think T. Stew is feeling the effects of being an owner-driver now?
No doubt about it. I have said it before and I'll keep saying it, he showed his hand way back during the January preseason media tour. He and team VP Bobby Hutchens sat there and talked over and over again about their fears of a sophomore slump. Turns out their concerns were legit.
Any word on an extension between Sorenson and Red Bull's #83?
No word on that yet, but he is absolutely the guy who will be in that car the remainder of the season. Just last week he met with the Austrian-based Red Bull execs. I'm told the Georgia lilt-meets-Bavarian hard consonants made for some interesting conversations.
Apparently columnists and reporters love to feel the love too. Except maybe Hinton. I don't think he cares one way or the other.
No, he does not. And that's why he's the man.
Reference Vickers, does NASCAR require that all drivers undergo periodic physical exam or are the drivers are their own for health check up?
They do have to have physicals and provide medical records.
How about Austin and Ty Dillon running really good at Iowa Speedway?
How about that! Ty won the pole for the ARCA race, Austin won the pole for the Trucks race, then Austin won and Ty finished 2nd!
My chatroom regulars know that I have been bragging about those boys for years now. Looks like I'm not crazy after all!
Let's hear it for Danica! 24th place, beating 68 year old Morgan Shepherd! Is ESPN going to do a one hour special on her "Decision 2.0"?
How about that? Yes, we are, The Danica Decision with Jeremy Schaap. In all seriousness when my stick and ball colleagues complained about all the hype surrounding LeBron I was like, "Yeah, we've already done all of that over here in NASCAR with Dale Junior and Danica."
What happened to all Stewart's big talk about making headlines and Truex's promises to payback Gordon?
We still have a loooong way to go in the season and three short track races left. One is in the Chase. These guys have long memories.
Okay, Mad Scientist McGee, with all the free agent talk, who would you put on your NASCAR Big Three team to win multiple championships for the next 5-10 years? Kyle, Jimmie, Smoke?
How about Kyle, Jimmie, and Denny. I think Gordon and Smoke have a Cup left in them, but not multiples.
From what I read Cally, and Atlanta are gonna be the next to lose races, to add Vegas and Kansas. Seems this makes it alot easier for NASCAR to change up Chase races, which I would love to see. But who is next in line,NH to KY?
I think you're spot on. And the Loudon-to-Kentucky move seems to be next. But I honestly think that's a mistake. Kentucky needs some serious capital upgrades to handle a Cup race and all New Hampshire does is sell a lot of tickets twice a year. Simple math says to me that Bruton Smith stands to make more money in NH than KY...and nothing speaks to Bruton like cash.
All the talk of schedule re-alignment has me thinking. If a track is 1.0 mile or less, you get 2 races a year. 1.5 - 2.0 miles around, 1 race, except for Charlotte since it is most of the teams home base and it gives everyone a little extra time at home. And of course, Daytona and Talladega keep their 2 races. This way you lose a second race at Atlanta, California, Michigan, Pocono, and Texas, but can add Kentucky and maybe some of the Nationwide tracks like Gateway and Iowa to spice things up a little. Thoughts?
Not a bad formula Kathi. I think ultimately any date movement should be based on attendance. A ticket is a vote. If you're stands are half-empty you lose race to someone else.
I mentioned my "12-step plan for NASCAR recovery" piece that is coming up in ESPN The Magazine later this week. One of the biggest pieces of the plan is tighten up the schedule. And the biggest piece of that is stop going to tracks twice a year that don't deserve it.
As much as it pained me personally to see Darlington lose a race, it definitely had a huge effect on the attendance of the race they kept.
Alright folks, gotta go. Believe or not, I have to go have makeup sprayed on. You can see the result of my Spray-Bake paint job tonight on NASCAR Now, 5 PM ET, ESPN2, with Geoff Bodine and Ricky Craven. In the meantime, hit me up on Twitter (@RyanMcGeeESPN) or via email (email@example.com). Until next time, tip your wait staff and enjoy the music of The Embers.