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January 20, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Ryan McGee

Ryan McGee
  (2:00 PM)

What's up my snow-covered brothers and sisters and welcome to a rare preseason and even rarer Thursday edition of the world's biggest and baddest one-hour motorsports block party.

Ryan McGee
  (2:01 PM)

We have cars on the track at Daytona. I have been hammering away on ESPN The Magazine's NASCAR preview edition (the Speed Issue) and I'm ready to talk racin'!

David (Tucson, AZ)

Which driver that didn't make the chase last year has a good chance of making it this year?

Ryan McGee
  (2:03 PM)

You can't go wrong with the three guys that finished just outside the Chase last year - Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, and Ryan Newman. I would lean toward McMurray out of the group.

Ryan McGee
  (2:05 PM)

And I really think that Brian Vickers will come back strong. He made the Chase two years ago and finished 10th the last time he was in a Cup car, which was at Darlington and apparently he was a lot of pain with his bloodclots. That's pretty dang tough if you ask me.

Ray (CT)

You guys are doing a good job with producing articles this past week. For a while the site was deader than Casey Mears NASCAR career.

Ryan McGee
  (2:06 PM)

Hahahaha! Well, we do have to take some time off, right? Actually, I took no time off. I was on college football duty all fall and winter.

Glenn Covington (Wingate, NC)

Who will be the biggest new name in the Cup series this year?

Ryan McGee
  (2:09 PM)

First, Go Bulldogs! Second, how about...no one! The only real Rookie of the Year candidate we have in Cup is Trevor Bayne running for the Wood Brothers and they don't plan on running the whole schedule. Kind of sad, but we're just in a period of time right now where the Cup dance card is full and sponsors aren't willing to hang their hat on someone who is unproven. There is plenty of young talent in Nationwide, there's just nowhere to put them right now.

Ryan (Ventura CA)

Hey Ryan, How was Smoke today Fiery?

Ryan (Reynoldsburg,Ohio)

What do you think of stwart punching the at the track and does he have his fire back?

Ryan McGee
  (2:09 PM)

Love hearing from Ryans. Especially two at one time.

Ryan McGee
  (2:11 PM)

Smoke was very calm today as he talked about the altercation in Australia. He seemed genuinely remorseful. But at the same time you get the feeling that the track conditions must have really been pretty bad for him to have said anything to the track officials, which started the whole mess. Tony said he was sorry that the situation blew up, but he also said that his primary concern at that point was the safety of the drivers.

Ryan McGee
  (2:12 PM)

As for getting his fire back, I don't know if that will happen. But honestly, I don't think he's lost too much fire to begin with. I just think he's gotten smarter about flipping out, especially now that he's a team owner and has to answer to his sponsors on more than one level.

Nick Rolando (Orlando)

Ryan, any update as to who's going to fill out Harvick's remaining schedule in Cup? I would think that would be an attractive team to sponsor.

Ryan McGee
  (2:15 PM)

I don't know exactly who will it will be to cover the non-Budweiser races (Bud is on the hood for 20 points races, the Shootout, and the All-Star Race). But I can tell you that the folks at RCR don't seem too worried about it, which tells me they have something in the works. You figure Hershey's/Reese's will do a couple and then they'll have to fill in past that.

Ryan McGee
  (2:15 PM)

I will say this. I do love that black Bud car. Looks awesome.

Kevin (Boston, MA)

Ryan, awesome to have the chats back!!!! Kurt Busch is planning to compete in the NHRA. How does a sponsor feel about that? There have to be provisions in contracts that would severely penalize him if he were ever to get hurt no?

Ryan McGee
  (2:18 PM)

Thanks bud. I know that Dodge loves it. He did it last year, running one lower level event in the NHRA Gator Nationals. He rebuilt a '70 Dodge Challenger and the folks at Dodge helped him with it. They loved the idea so much that they are the ones who actually staged the press conference and wrote the press release for when he announced it at Atlanta last spring.

Ryan McGee
  (2:20 PM)

As for getting hurt, that would be more of a Penske deal. In the past The Captain hasn't exactly loved it when his guys went off and did other stuff, but in Kurt's case it must big him too badly. The Saturday after Thanksgiving Kurt ran in the Polar Bear 150 at Rockingham in a late model called a "Crash Car". I think that's awesome.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

With Milka Duno going to race at Daytona in the ARCA Series race Probably full time, Do you think that she will try to race in NASCAR?

Ryan McGee
  (2:20 PM)

I'm thinking she will try. And I'm thinking she will fail.

collin (minnesota)

is roush mad at kenseth at all, because it seems like he was underpowered the whole season

Ryan McGee
  (2:24 PM)

It wasn't just Kenseth that had power issues, it was the whole organization. But that certainly wasn't a problem for any of the Roush cars by season's end. That new FR9 engine is a beast. Matt posted 5 top 10's over the last 8 races of the season and only one finish outside the top 16.

JAMMER (UTAH)

I watched some of the interviews during the break in testing. Dale Jr still doesn't look good, in my mind. Is it because of the test, uncomfortable with his new team or something else?

Ryan McGee
  (2:26 PM)

I think he can feel the wave of questions coming about his father with 10th anniversary of his death coming up on Feb.18. It already started today. I don't care who you are or how long its been, that's tough.

Sam (Jacksonville)

Do you think Denny will suffer from the losing of the Championship hangover???

Ryan McGee
  (2:27 PM)

Great question. He says it is cleared from his mind, but his body language today in his Daytona media Q&A said otherwise. I don't know it we'll be able to answer that question until we get to, say, April.

jasn (michigan)

what do you think of Nascar getting rid of the standard start times?

Ryan McGee
  (2:29 PM)

I think it would be a mistake, a total knee jerk reaction to the ratings dip last year. You have to let them stand for a while and let fans develop habits. If anything, I would simply adjust the start times so they go directly head-to-head with NFL kickoffs, not ditch them altogether.

Joe (OH)

JJ's line about JR being about the same height so they can now build similar dashboards and seats as compared to when short Gordon was there was funny.

Ryan McGee
  (2:30 PM)

Yeah, it was wasn't it? It's funny, I chatted with Gordon on Monday (story on ESPN.com right now!) and he mentioned the same thing. He and Mark are little guys, so there will actually be some crossover there to make it easier for the teams. It'll be the same when Kahne comes over in 2012.

Barb (PA)

How's the drafting/close racing looking on the new track today?

Ryan McGee
  (2:33 PM)

Barb, the real drafting session is about to start, but there have been a couple of groups running together today. They look good, though no one expects us to see these guys practice in giant packs today. One of the big questions I have had is whether or not we will see the two-car breakaways like we see at Talladega. At the break today a couple of guys said that yes, they think we'll definitely be seeing that during Speedweeks.

Tony (SF)

Ryan,I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum. Since it seems the 43-1 point change went over like a lead balloon for just about everyone, what changes do you think should be made?

Ryan McGee
  (2:36 PM)

Rowdy Roddy Piper! They Live! I'm not particularly crazy about the 43-1 points scale, but I see where NASCAR is coming from as far as making it easier for people to keep track of it. Even some of the drivers today have admitted that it would make it easier for them to keep track of it during races. BUT...I think the race winner should be rewarded with a big gap between himself and second place. If they gave him a ten-point bonus I think that would be perfect.

Dee (Vegas)

What's the antennae thing on cars? Does that provide testing feedback or something? Thanks as always for the chat.

Ryan McGee
  (2:39 PM)

That's for the radio. Unlike F1 and IndyCar, teams aren't allowed to transmit telemetry back to the pits. Though during testing they do have on-board recorders and when they come in they plug in and that data is downloaded.

Bobby Lee (Tidewater)

You see Virginia Tech staying on top of the Coastal Division next year, or another team making it to the ACC CG?

Ryan McGee
  (2:41 PM)

Nice! A football question! VT stays on top for a while yet. UNC took a step backward with all the controversy and Miami is at least a couple of years away. By the way, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer is a gigantic NASCAR fan.

Mike (AZ)

Speaking of the FR9, have you ever heard the hp numbers on the engines NASCAR pulled last season? Thanks

Ryan McGee
  (2:43 PM)

I have not seen the numbers, but I have talked to some Cup engine tuners who have. The FR9 doesn't have a huge advantage over, say, those monsters they build at Earnhardt-Childress, but they have definitely closed the large gap that was there the last couple of seasons.

Mike (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

I now you are in favor of shorter races. I am absolutely against it. First, NASCAR is fun, because the variables change through a race. At one stage that guy is fast. 50 laps later somebody else takes of the favorite role. So, I think if you shorten races drivers will get more change to dominate a whole race. That is what difference NASCAR from the boring F1.Secondly, I know your argument of shorten races is that it will add more drama to the races. But I do agree partially. If you have 250 laps instead of 500. 75% of the race will still be just improve the car and not going full out. That will stay the same. So relatively there will not be more drama.

Ryan McGee
  (2:47 PM)

This is a great argument Mike, but - and I know you're not surprised here - I don't agree with some of your points. I base a lot of what I feel on what we see in Trucks and Nationwide races and also what we saw in the 300-milers at New Hamphsire last year. When the green flag drops they have to go. There's no time to sit back and then "flip the switch" like the drivers like to say about the 500-milers. Plus, I really believe this is a more logical solution to improving TV ratings. People are tuning out for the middle 300 miles. They are watching the start to the first pit stops and then from the final pit stops to the finish. That's a fact. Move them closer together and, to me, they might actually stick around for the whole thing.

Ryan McGee
  (2:48 PM)

Love hearing you, Mike. I remember the first time that "Nijmegen, Netherlands" popped up last year and I was like, Really?!

Scott (Manchester)

Even with the name change for the Phil Parsons team, does he think he is actually fooling anyone into believing that its not going to be more of the same start and park crap as every other year? When will Nascar finally do something about this sham practice?

Ryan McGee
  (2:49 PM)

Never. The only thing that's going to fix it is when the economy opens up a little and there too many good teams to allow bad ones to sneak in. That being said, field-fillers date all the way back to the first NASCAR races on the beach, so I don't see that changing anytime soon. Or ever.

Ed (Fort Worth)

Speaking of ECR, how do you like Happy's chances this year? What about the Mayor? I'd like to see Burton get one more serious shot at the Cup before it gets too late in his career.

Ryan McGee
  (2:51 PM)

I like them a lot. There's a swagger at RCR that hasn't been there in a while. And really they've been running great ever since the midway point of '09, so they should be strutting a bit. Happy is my preseason Cup favorite right now...well, he's my non-Jimmie Cup favorite.

Ryan McGee
  (2:51 PM)

As for Burton, I think he has another title run in him. And I think people forget about Bowyer, but he's legit. Take away his little issue at the start of the Chase and he would've been in the mix at Homestead.

Sherrie (North Carolina)

Ryan, I can't believe you would like to see a ten-point bonus for the winner!!! No other sport does that, and I don't think Nascar should either. The points should be the points, I feel all these bonus points are what is ruining the sport. You know the last race of the year everyone said that Denny Hamling had a 15 point lead, no he didn't, after qualifying Jimmie Johnson had the lead. The minute the green flag waved Jonson was in the lead. I say stop all these bonus points and do away with this stupid chase. Nascar claims that they want to be more like other sports but no other sport gives out bonus points for winning a game.

Ryan McGee
  (2:55 PM)

Sherrie, I hear you. And you echo what I hear from a lot of fans. But NASCAR is really the only racing series that doesn't give the winner a big chunk of points over the second place guy. F1 gives the winner 25 points and 2nd place 18. IndyCar gives the winner 50 and 2nd place 40. To me, you have to reward the guy who wins the race.

Bryan (KY) (KY)

Early 500 picks? favorite? darkhorse?

Ryan McGee
  (2:58 PM)

I think the favorite has to be someone with an Earnhardt-Childress engine. McMurray or Harvick. For a darkhorse, take Edwards. Over the last four years he's been much better on plate tracks than people realize, trailing only Jimmie and Gordon in points scored.

Rex Ryan (via mobile)

Ryan, do you think NASCAR puts its best foot forward this year?

Ryan McGee
  (2:59 PM)

Zoiks! Good one "coach".

Ryan McGee
  (3:02 PM)

That seems like a good one to end on, folks. Stay tuned for more preseason chats before we go back to our regular Monday afternoon time slot. Until then, hit me up on email (mcgeespn@yahoo.com) or on Twitter (@ryanmcgeeespn), and check out my Jeff Gordon Q&A that went up on ESPN.com's NASCAR page earlier today. Until next time, tip the wait staff and enjoy the music of Gary U.S. Bonds.