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July 29, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Ed Hinton

Ed Hinton
  (2:00 PM)

Good afternoon, all. We've already got a lively ESPN Conversation going on my column about Ron Dennis of McLaren offering all sorts of previously forbidden electronics fruit to NASCAR and its teams. I'm surprised and pleased that the majority think tech advances are cool and overdue in NASCAR. Let's have at it both here and on that Conversation about the subject.

Alan (South Carolina )

Name the most underrated and overrated driver in nascar.

Ed Hinton
  (2:01 PM)

Uh uh, Alan. I'm taking the Jeff Gordon Amendment -- non committal -- on that one. I've gotta live with those guys in the garages. Besides, I think all of you have your own cemented opinions about who's most overrated, if not about underrated.

brad (pa)

Hi Ed, I've asked this of your compatriates all week and they've all ignored it so I was hoping ESPN's best could give his take. The jist is that with 7 organizations having won this year (20 cars) and Roush, RPM, and JTG all capable (9 cars). Do you feel the new car has atleast acomplished the goal of leveling the playing field as far a just equipment goes? I mean 29 cars with the capability of winning is preaty good and who knows where red bull would be with a decent driver

Ed Hinton
  (2:03 PM)

Maybe a level playing field among drivers who are with the right teams -- Roush of course being on a down cycle right now. Check out my blog accompanying my column on Ron Dennis of McLaren. He makes a good case that NASCAR is really no more competitive than F1. His thoughts are interesting. Again, it's in the blog, not the column.

Dave (Boston)

Bowyer has been coming on lately- he should make the Chase, but what does he need to do to win a few races, get over the hump and become an elite driver?

Ed Hinton
  (2:04 PM)

More aggressiveness. July Daytona was a case in point, where he wouldn't accept a push from Gordon that would have shoved him out front of Harvick and let the 33 and 24 have at it. Course, he was on older tire, but this was go for broke time at the end.

Steve (St. Anthony, MN)

Why does Bobby Labonte keep getting chance after chance? He has does nothing in about 4-5 years. Is it sponsorship?

Ed Hinton
  (2:05 PM)

I think they like his experience, PLUS the fact that he can give 'em a former champion's provisional when needed. That's big to struggling teams.

Mel (Michigan)

Are Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch mature enough this year to really contend for the championship or even win the championship?

Ed Hinton
  (2:06 PM)

that's precisely the question that will make this year's chase interesting. I think Hamlin will last longer into the chase than Kyle. But we'll see.

Shawn (Gastonia, NC)

Hey Ed! Let's be honest here, Ed. 15 bucks for a restrictor plate or 25 grand for software for a tamper-resistant fuel injector? NASCAR looks at technology the wrong way. These components are likely one-time expenses to help save fuel and reduce tire wear among other things. What's the worst thing these expenses would do? Eliminate start and park teams? GOOD! Start and park teams were awarded over $650,000 last week. If anything it could reduce start and park teams because they would save on tires, save on fuel and save on engines.

Ed Hinton
  (2:08 PM)

I agree completely, Shawn. I was just letting Pemberton have his say -- oversimplified as it may be. Hadn't thought of start and park teams, but electronics, if nascar chose, would give them an easy way to police teams that pull out with no mechanical problems.

Jamie (Denver)

Do you see MWR getting another win this year?

Ed Hinton
  (2:09 PM)

Yep. Between Reuti and Truex, they ought to get it done another time or two or three.

Larry (Smith)

Mr. Hinton,Do you ever see Mr. H or Jr. ever saying, "enough", meaning it is time to hang it up or make radical changes by possibly switching Knaus to the 88 team?

Ed Hinton
  (2:10 PM)

Don't see Knaus ever to the 88 team. Don't think he'd do it. Can see Junior himself saying "enough" if he gets more exasperated, but Hendrick won't as long as there's "enough" big bucks rolling in from sponsors for Junior.

Todd (Ga)

Hey Ed. With the bad luck JR had on Sunday at Indy did that erase any chance he had of making the chase or can he still make it happen? I was encouraged by the run he was having and the adjustments they had made on the car, he maybe had a top 10 run going.

Ed Hinton
  (2:11 PM)

Now all of you know that predicting Junior's fortunes right now is like naming the exact minute the next thunderstorm will fire up over Georgia . .. or Indiana . . .or North Carolina . .. it just comes and goes with no rhyme or reason . . .just unpredictable.

Steve (St. Anthony, MN)

If Indy keeps have the attendance problems like they did Sunday, will the Brickyard 400 go away? If yes, what track do they move the race too?

Ed Hinton
  (2:13 PM)

I think NASCAR will keep going as long as the Hulman-George family wants them. There are some theories that Indy should declare independence of NASCAR and go back to one race a year, the 500. Don't think that's likely, but if attendance keeps dropping, who knows? Should the race go away, I don't think it's a question of moving somewhere else. What NASCAR needs to do is cut its schedule to 30.

John (Illinois)

Jack Roush is a well respected ambassador for business and recreational aviation. I met him at Oskkosh last year, and I hope to see him there again next year. I hope Jack has a quick and full recovery, and gets back in the cockpit and back to flying again soon.

Ed Hinton
  (2:15 PM)

From what I understand, his injuries aren't as serious as the ones from the crash in Alabama several years ago. You can bet he'll be flying again as soon as he can.

Jeremy (Port Angeles, WA)

Do you see Danica leaving the Izod Indycar Series after the 2011 & going to Nascar full time in 2012?

Ed Hinton
  (2:16 PM)

I do, if there's room for her at a good team. My understanding is that her Indy contract is truly locked up only thru 2011, although it extends past that.

Cale (Boston)

Does the Brickyard 400's status as a marquee race prohibit NASCAR from dropping it, even if it stops being profitable?

Ed Hinton
  (2:16 PM)

Yeah, that would really be an image blow to NASCAR.

Jacob (Ohio)

where do you think Marcos Ambrose will end up in 2011? How do you think Bobby Labote will fare in the #47 for 2011?

Ed Hinton
  (2:17 PM)

I'm wondering whether Marcos might go back to Australia. I heard him say a while back that in the kind of slump he's in, with a wife and children, he sometimes wonders if he's doing the right thing.

Agnel (Bartlett, IL)

Hey Ed,What are the chances Jr. makes the chase if he survives Pocono with a decent (top 15) finish? What are his chances if he doesn't? Also what are his chances of winning a race this year?

Ed Hinton
  (2:18 PM)

Same answer as before. What are the chances of a thunderstorm firing up over Indiana in the next few hours? You just never know.

Shawn (Gastonia, NC)

Hey Ed! What is the data on fuel mileage with an injector? Is it significant enough to warrant a smaller fuel cell or possibly eliminate fueling for a tire run? Wouldn't that potentially speed up pit stops or add a wrinkle toward the end of a race?

Ed Hinton
  (2:20 PM)

Actually I think even fuel mileage itself could be regulated fuel management. Don't have the data -- the teams aren't even getting that from NASCAR yet -- but I suspect they could calculate fuel mileage they want, and come pretty close to getting it within reason. That is, you're never going to get street car mileage in race cars.

Ray (CT)

Is Truex kicking himself now that Jaime has won at Daytona and Indy? I mean, even if he thinks he is in a better situation it still has to sting.

Ed Hinton
  (2:20 PM)

Don't think so. He's a move on and don't look back kind of guy. Besides, I think he's just happier with MWR than he was going through all that DEI tempest and then the merger. And he knows the wins will happen for him as MWR gets better and better.

RAYGORDON REID (VILLANOVA PA 19085)

QUESTION TO ED HINTON AT 2.25 PM HI ED WHO DO YOU HAVE FOR POCONO SUNDAY

Ed Hinton
  (2:22 PM)

Raygordon, I've got Hamlin to repeat, and thanks for your continuing 100 percent attendance record on this chat. But Villanova this time? Wasn't it California last week and Mis'ippi before that? You remind me of the ending of Faulkner's Light in August: "A body sho' do get around." Actually, folks, I'm just fishing to see if Yar8pak is here today.

Mike (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

Where do you rank JPM as a driver? I think I am not crazy if I argue he is (one of) the best ever. He has raced and won in a lot of different series and different cars in an era it is not usual to do so.

Ed Hinton
  (2:24 PM)

You make an excellent point. Knee-jerk would be that he hasn't won a lot in anything except CART, but when you think about it, he IS the most versatile in an era when it's very hard to cross over. Foyt and Mario could easily jump from Indy cars to Le Mans to stock cars to F1, etc. Because there weren't so many races and sponsors and points dollars. Hard to rank him for all time, but he is the most versatile of his time.

Tracy (CT)

Do you think Jamie Mac would be winless if he were still with RFR?

Ed Hinton
  (2:25 PM)

I sure do. All his old compadres are winless at RFR, so why should Jamie be an exception. Chip Ganassi says its all about those ECR engines.

Ryan (Ventura CA)

Hi Ed, Are you surprised by Smoke's sudden conformity? Let's face it Smoke the Owner is more vanilla then JJ

Ed Hinton
  (2:26 PM)

Smoke's having to deal with sponsors face to face all the time now, and having to struggle for more bucks. So i'm disappointed but not surprised.

Saul (Sacramento)

Ed...based on the latest resport its great that Mr. Jack Roush is going to be ok. A little black humor Mr. Ed....I been wondering, you don't suppose he is wondering if BK or some satellited had something to do it.

Ed Hinton
  (2:27 PM)

Looks like he'll be OK. And no, I don't think he thinks spy satellites had anything to do with it.

Mike (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

Any possibility NASCAR is ever going to race competitive (no exhibition) in Europe?

Ed Hinton
  (2:28 PM)

Highly unlikely. Cars are so heavy they must be transported by sea (as in Australia, 1988) as opposed to open wheel, which are light enough for air transport. Guess NASCAR could be flown, but that would take a whole bunch of 747s.

Ironhead Forever (NY)

Has Teresa called Chip and McMurray yet to congratulate them on winning the Brickyard 400? Has she called them yet about winning the Daytona 500?

Ed Hinton
  (2:28 PM)

Good questions all. I'll leave it at that.

Derek (Madison, IL)

Has the Hendrick team ever had a worse combined effort then they did at Indy? Not one of their cars threatened at all

Ed Hinton
  (2:29 PM)

I'd have to go back and research to be sure, but at first glance I would think you're right.

Shawn (Gastonia, NC)

My biggest fear as a fan with new technology is the need for an "overtake" button. As long as we don't see that kind of nonsense, I say embrace technology.

Ed Hinton
  (2:30 PM)

Agree. I think that's an awful and absurd element to IRL now. But F1 doesn't use it, and I can't imagine NASCAR ever would. The IRL needs to get rid of that ASAP . . .but they won't, because they're desperate for ratings.

JDM (Atlanta, GA)

Ed, I believe in years past (the 90's is what comes to mind) NASCAR had changed spoiler height and air dam location on certain manufacture's cars when they were struggling, to assist in a more competitive environment. Has this not been discussed with the Ford and Toyota situation that we are seeing now?

Ed Hinton
  (2:32 PM)

That's the trouble with NASCAR locking in so many specs on the COT. They've left themselves without the wiggle room they once had. And I think Ford's problems are more complicated than just front and rear aero.

Michael (Springfield, IL)

Who is Jeff Gordon's main sponser going to be? Will Dupont have 1/2 of the season? and others filling in the 1/2 of the season?

Ed Hinton
  (2:32 PM)

Looks like Dupont will be in part way. They're still tight lipped about the other, but I still suspect Wal-Mart.

Aj (Indy )

So...Nascar goes through all the planning to bring back some "old school" looks to the new Nationwide cars...to make people remember the old days when you could tell the cars apart, and now, they are thinking about making the cars more "Tech" friendly. I would rather have Less "tech" than more. Nascar is turning into a spec series as it is, and I sure don't want to see them end up like the IRL in that everything is the same.

Ed Hinton
  (2:33 PM)

I think the electronics they're considering would be just basic stuff, like carburetor parameters, that wouldn't necessarily fall under "spec."

Scott (Indy)

How aware of the attendance issues/ratings slide are the drivers? Seems to me they would almost have to notice the attendance at the races, wouldn't they?

Ed Hinton
  (2:35 PM)

They sure do. Jeff Gordon hinted at it recently, and then pulled back quickly saying essentially it wasn't his place or his job to worry about those things. But you can tell he's thinking about it. They all are.

Frank (Harrisburg, PA)

What about for a darkhorse for Sunday? The 33 or the 1 come to mind?

Ed Hinton
  (2:35 PM)

I'll take the 1. Pocono and Indy aren't the identical twin setups they used to be, but they're still close.

Stephen (CA)

ED, Tired of hearing about start and park teams. Doesn't getting rid of them take jobs away from people who really need them? Also some of these start and parks might give someone a small chance to me noticed by a bigger team or sponsor.

Ed Hinton
  (2:37 PM)

Start and parks have never been much of an issue to me, 'cause I remember back when they had trouble filling fields and "strokers" made up as much as half the fields.

Scott (Indy)

Going back to Jeff Gordon saying it wasn't his place...afraid he might cross a line with NASCAR and draw a fine?

Ed Hinton
  (2:38 PM)

Could be. BTW, Newton reports that Hamlin was one of the ones fined, which doesn't surprise me in the least, considering all he's been saying about cautions and understanding the need for a show. The one who surprised me was Newman, who hasn't been out front that much lately in general.

Teri (CA)

What is a "stroker"?

Ed Hinton
  (2:39 PM)

It's an old term for a start and parker who might not park. Might start, and just ride around the apron getting lapped time after time after time. Most notorious was Herman "The Turtle" Beam. That was before they had minimum speeds.

greg (sacramento )

Ed - What do you think of the new spotter for the 24 ? Also how much of a difference can a spotter make?

Ed Hinton
  (2:40 PM)

Proof will be in the work. A spotter can make a huge difference. You see a lot of guys initiate wrecks because spotters declare them "clear" before they are. Many other issues critical with spotters.

Greg Biffle (NC)

Do you realize I haven't had a top 10 at Pocono since 2006? Ouch!

Ed Hinton
  (2:41 PM)

Fake Greg, I wouldn't push the issue too much. Pocono's mighty hard on engines, and the Fords lately . .. well . ..

Cale (Boston)

I thought part of the COT was that NASCAR was sick of having to juggle spoiler/airdam heights while the manufacturers and teams whined at them constantly?

Ed Hinton
  (2:42 PM)

Yeah, that's what I meant by them locking in . .. as opposed to "adjusting" for the whiningest makes back in the day.

David Tomaszewski (Trucksville, Pennsylvania)

What would your ideal schedule be?

Ed Hinton
  (2:44 PM)

30 races, start in California and Vegas in January, season finale on Labor Day. That way they'd quit running their heads into the brick wall of football. Also, very, very few tracks would get more than one race. Two-race tracks would include Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville -- and maybe add Iowa -- because they badly need more short tracks for the TV show. I'd pull Dega out of the Chase and put the finale at Daytona in November.

Scott (Indy)

A question about fines for what they say. Since I'm not an attorney, I don't know all the in's and outs here...how does NASCAR get the authority to fine guys? I mean, it's not like they are contractually tied to these guys like NFL, MLB, etc (the drivers are Contractors, right?). And they aren't doing anything on the track (NASCAR's domain).

Ed Hinton
  (2:45 PM)

Well, it's not like a court fine. It's more, "We have the power to grant or deny you a chance to compete in our races, so if you want to compete, you'll pay the fine. If you don't pay, we won't let you compete." It's a business fine, not a legal one.

Andy (Dayton,Ohio )

Do you think harvicks slip up at chicago was set-up or did the fuel pump problems prevent them from making improvements to get the car righted. Harvick's only really poor showing this year was Michigan and Chicago, yet he was killer at cali and Las Vegas.

Ed Hinton
  (2:46 PM)

Don't know what to make of Harvick's hot and cold on the intermediates, but he'd better get it right -- and we'll see -- because there's a whole bunch of intermediates coming up that can make or break his championship chances. I don't think he's playing possum, no. I think those were legit failures.

Teri (CA)

Where does the "fine" money go?

Ed Hinton
  (2:47 PM)

That usually is murky year to year. Sometimes they redistribute it according to points finish, but you sort of never know.

Scott (Indy)

Not a lot of haters in here today. What gives? Too hot for them? Or, are you screening them out for us?

Ed Hinton
  (2:49 PM)

No, the vicious trolls seem to be staying away in recent weeks. Everybody's pretty nice today. I really unloaded on a few nasty ones a few weeks ago, so maybe they're home nursing their bloody noses.

Jake (Irving, Texas)

Hi Ed, You think that maybe Ron Dennis was at Indy checking out the possibility of bringing Mercedes in Sprint Cup with a McLaren-Mercedes entry?

Ed Hinton
  (2:50 PM)

I wish, but don't think so. I think Mercedes and BMW, along with Honda and even Hyundai, would breathe new life into NASCAR. But if Dennis had been checking out NASCAR entry, you can bet Herr Norbert Haug of Mercedes would have been right there with him.

John (Illinois)

Why is NASCAR even considering adding KY to the schedule? Haven't they heard, fans want FEWER cookie cutter tracks, not more? If they add KY, how soon before we start hearing about all of the empty seats and mediocre racing?

Ed Hinton
  (2:51 PM)

You're right. It wouldn't be long. Only reason would be because Bruton Smith wants to move one from some other underachieving place, such as Atlanta.

Teri (CA)

I wish Nascar would make Sonoma a Chase race? Any chance of that in the future?

Ed Hinton
  (2:52 PM)

Probably not, but I'd like to see that too. I think Sonoma has a better, more knowledgeable audience about NASCAR in general than lackadaisical L.A.

Phil (Richmond, Va.)

If you were Elliott Sadler, would you be buying a bass boat for next year? I think he'll have some free weekends next summer.

Ed Hinton
  (2:53 PM)

He's probably already got a bass boat, but no way he could relax in it on race Sundays. He may have a hard time finding a ride, but you can bet he'll go full force for what he can get.

Caster and Camber (Bahama, NC)

Whats going on Mr. Hinton? Why is it in NASCAR if you wreck someone on purpose and this wreck causes damage to multiple cars it cost you $25k but if you talk bad about NASCAR it cost you $50k? It seems backwards to me even with the point deductions for the wrecks.

Ed Hinton
  (2:55 PM)

Very interesting perspective. Maybe Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm and all the others could pressure NASCAR and give them big sponsorship bucks in return for selling liability insurance to teams for races. Just think: Sam Hornish's premiums would be pretty high, and Michael Waltrip's might have been a fortune over the years. Just kidding, Mikey.

Harold (Hoover, AL)

Does JPM find victory lane by the endof the year?

Ed Hinton
  (2:55 PM)

I think so. But then I thought at this point last year he'd win on an oval sometime in the fall of '09, too.

Jacob (Ohio)

Ed, seems like for teams are catching up to Hendrick in equipment wise and getting better results. when the chase arrives this year, do you see Johnson making a 5-peat or do you think someone new is gonna win the championship?

Ed Hinton
  (2:56 PM)

A lot depends on how Hamlin at JGR, and then the RCR cars, keep on coming or stumble. JJ could face more, and better, competition than he's had in a while. Right now i'd rate him 50-50 to five-peat.

Heidi (NJ)

to answer caster, isn't the value of Nascar's good will and reputation worth about 1 million times more than that value of a few race cars?

Ed Hinton
  (2:57 PM)

That's a point, Heidi, but I don't think gagging their drivers is the answer. It's done in other sports too, so it's here to stay.

Mike (Atlanta)

I really think people put too much stock in how introducing new technology will affect the fan base. Does anybody watching a race think about how the fuel is getting into the cylinder while watching their favorite driver is getting a nose under another driver? Or what dial the driver is turning to make the car handle better? Better racing and relatable drivers bring more fans, not carburetors and spring rubbers

Ed Hinton
  (2:58 PM)

Bingo! Exactly. Greatest thing ever said to me about NASCAR was by Humpy Wheeler: "All our fans want inside a race car is a hero."

Cathy (Atlanta)

Any idea on who will be driving the 5 next year?

Ed Hinton
  (2:59 PM)

I'm still saying Mark, but my colleagues say Kasey. I say forcing Mark out would be a nasty blemish on Hendrick's image, so he'll try to find another way.

Phil (Richmond, Va.)

Sadler's my driver, and I think he can be successful (see McMurray, Jamie), but it is a bad year to find a quality ride. The #47 was open for about 45 minutes before Labonte was linked to it.

Ed Hinton
  (3:00 PM)

I can see why he's your driver. Great guy, and sometimes shows real flashes of talent.

David Tomaszewski (Trucksville, Pennsylvania)

Where will Kahne be driving next year?

Ed Hinton
  (3:01 PM)

I'm still saying a souped-up James Finch operation funded and supplied by Hendrick, though nobody else agrees with me anymore. We'll see.

Andrew (Lafayette, IN)

"All our fans want inside a race car is a hero." - This is spot on. That is why I support Jimmie and Tony, two of the best!

Ed Hinton
  (3:01 PM)

Good for you. At least one fan sees more in Jimmie than just "vanilla."

Ed Hinton
  (3:01 PM)

Well, the clock says we gotta go. This has been a really good group today. Thank you all.