What's up folks and welcome to a special Tuesday edition of the Monday Motorsports Block Party. I was on the way back from Homestead yesterday and they had some guy named Smoke available to chat, so here we are today! Without any further ado, adieu, ahem...let's get to the queries!
Congrats to the 14 team. Why is that every week (it seems) a driver is penalized for missing the driver's meeting? Does NASCAR hide the meeting location or are drivers really that unaware of the time?
It's usually just a crowd control thing. Most drivers have appearances they have to make that morning and they have to get from the outside to the inside. Some guys get stuck in traffic. On Sunday pretty much everyone was stuck outside the media center, where this week's meetings took place, because the Secret Service had it locked down for the First Lady's visit. Everyone was warned way in advance, so it was still on them if they were late.
With the way Danica ran Phoenix and Homestead, I'm worried that she's not getting good race cars or maybe she needs a new crew chief. How can she run top 5 next year?
She ran top 15 all night at Homestead and then over-arced the corner late in the in the race and wrecked. I wouldn't worry. She's improved tremendously over this same time last year. (Psst...I hear some ESPN The Magazine writer that looks like Johnny Benson filed an ESPN.com story on all this over the weekend.)
Why did Stewart fire Grubb during the middle of the Chase? Will it now be awkward if Grubb goes back to SHR, considering he was fired and STILL helped lead the No. 14 to a championship?
That was one of the most awkward post-race press conferences I've ever been to. It's easy to forget this now, but keep in mind the 14 was very generic most of the season and barely squeaked into the Chase. Even after they won those two races, they kind of went pfft in the next two weeks. He was told right before Charlotte that he was gone. Not saying that I think letting him go is the right thing to do - it's not - but you have to remember the state of the team when it happened.
And yes it would awkward if he comes back, but these guys are also businessmen first and friends second. They'd get over it.
Do you expect Kurt to be taking Paul Wolfe for his crew chief?
That would make a lot of sense to me. But if I was Paul Wolfe I would want that job almost as much as I would like to hug a cactus.
Does Kyle Busch get involved in all the truck and Nationwide decisions over at KBM or does he leave that to Rick Ren and others?
He does, not day-to-day stuff, but the big decisions he is absolutely involved in. I learned that last year when I was doing an interview with him for ESPN The Magazine and he had to take a call. I sat and listened to him court a potential sponsor for a half-hour and it was really impressive how he handled it.
I'm a JGR fan and very concerned about the TRD motors being built in Calif. while the team in in NC. How much of a disadvantage will this be for Kyle, Denny and Joey?
I don't like it. I think the drivers, particularly Denny, really pushed for it and now they are already concerned about it. It was purely a financial move for JGR and I totally understand that. But TRD's engine history says that they don't really like being told what to do, so this free-flowing data and idea exchange between JGR and TRD that keep being described seems like a bit of wishful thinking. We'll see.
Selfishly I am also worried about guys I know that work in the JGR engine department and have for years. I wrote about this in my ESPN.com story today about NASCAR's uncertain offseason job climate. Those guys are just twisting in the wind right now, waiting to see how this all shakes out. They've already let 13 guys go and it feels like more might be coming.
Do you think there will be a hangover for Carl like there was with Denny this past season?
Nope. I think Carl is tougher mentally, Roush Fenway is in a better position to keep it going than JGR was, and he's also been here before. People forget now, but Carl had two previous shots at the Cup and came up short. That hasn't slowed him any. Jimmie said all weekend that once the 99 broke through they would be hard to stop. Even Stewart said it on Sunday night that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Carl will win a Cup one day.
I also think the relationship that Bob Osborne and Edwards have is in a better position to survive the letdown than Mike Ford and Denny.
Has there been an equal amount of Fuel Injection testing by all the teams or did some of the teams test more than others?
Pretty much. As with any big change some teams started out testing the initial idea before others on behalf of NASCAR and the manufacturers. But there have been some big all-comers tests. And there will be another at Daytona before Speedweeks.
with all the problems jimmie and kyle had in '11 do you think those teams will be racing with a vengence in 2012?
Jimmie yes. I'm holding out on Kyle. I worry more about him suffering a '11 hangover next year than anyone else. He has a lot of repairs to make within his team. Those guys were pretty mad at him about having to sit out the Texas race. They didn't look much happier when I saw them at Homestead. Had a look of "Let's get this overwith and go home."
Did NASCAR tell the drivers to stay out of the way of #99 and #14 over the last 3 races so they could run 1-2?
Hell no. In fact, they had the opposite problem. I thought the lapped cars, particularly the 71, didn't get out of the way fast enough at the end. I thought they cost Carl whatever slim chance he may have had to get up to the 14 car. NASCAR did warn the non-title contenders to be aware of where 99 and 14 were. They do that every year when we get to the season finale. But no one ever said, "Stay out of the way."
What young driver that has excelled particularly in feeder series, i.e. CWTS and Nationwide, have been the biggest bust in Cup? I guess what I am asking is the NASCAR equivalent to a Kwame Brown or Ryan Leaf. I was thinking about it, and one cannot call Truex, Logano, or Bowyer a bust. They're still developing. I feel like there was a guy before Kahne and Mayfield drove for Evernham that I cannot think of to save my life. Who you got?
I think you're thinking of Casey Atwood. And he would have been the first name I brought up. In the late 1990's to early 2000's Young Gun craze that kind of took over after Gordon and Stewart came in and undid traditional NASCAR thinking - that young guys couldn't win right away - there were a lot of guys who were brought up too fast and flamed out. Ron Barfield, Andy Houston...they were talented guys, but they were jerked up the development chain way too fast. It reminds you of a guy who gets called up out of the minor leagues too early, gets bombed, and never recovers mentally.
Did Addington run Kurt out of fuel 2 races ago and give him a sour driveshaft as a way of saying "thanks for the memorys"?
I think the whole thing turned so sour it was pretty much a group effort there at the end. But if he did that to Kurt, anyone that listened to the radio abuse that Steve took all season couldn't blame him. I don't think he did. Steve's too chill for that.
When you going to write your first "Kyle has matured" article?
It's funny you say that. When I got home yesterday I went and dug out an ESPN The Magazine story that I wrote in spring 2010 about the Busch brothers. I didn't go all the way in saying that they had matured, but I did say they were headed in that direction. Kind of want to rewrite it now.
So Edwards and Smoke go into the race as 1-2 in the points, and lo and behold they're the top two finishers. Now obviously they're very skilled drivers, but what are the odds of that happening without the other drivers "allowing" that to play out?
That's like asking why were most of the cars that finished in the top 10 during the Chase races mostly Chase cars. It's because they were the best! Richard Petty told me a long time ago that he laughs out loud at all conspiracy theories because, "You ain't gonna get those other 42 guys to lay down and I know that because they ain't ever going to get me to lay down."
Who was Kurt giving the bird to?
I wasn't out there when it happened. I was in the media center. But I'm going to go with "The world."
what do you think of 2012 season
I think it's going to be hard to top this season...but I know they're going to try!
Why does it make a lot of sense to take Paul Wolfe away from Brad Keselowski? Does Kurt Busch deserve a good crew chief more than Brad does?
That was actually a typo. I meant to say "that wouldn't make any sense to me." Still a little tired from the weekend.
Bold prediction: Brad Keselowski will be top 5 again in points next year, but he will not be a champion until he leaves Penske for Richard Childress Racing.
How close was Smoke to running out of gas on that last pit stop?
Extremely. Like almost choked down dry.
Is Stewart could win 5 of 10 and pass 4 cars on every restart then why didn't he drive like that during the first 26 races?
We asked him that after the race and he said it was pretty simple. The cars back then weren't what they became by the end of the year.
At what point does Penske stop putting up with Busch's behavior? Yes, I know he wins races. But at some point it has to stop being worth the hassle, right?
I have no idea. And the way he talks to Roger Penske on the radio is just unreal. You think about all the amazing racers that The Captain has employed over the years - Indy, NASCAR, F1, sports cars - and no one's ever disrespected him like that on such a regular basis.
Why does NASCAR make The Busch Brother go to Vegas when a few years ago Gordon and Dale Jr. skipped the banquet?
My impression is that they aren't. Maybe they'll be there because Vegas is their hometown, but the 11th and 12th place guys have no official capacity at the Friday night awards. I do think they have some contingency awards to pick at the Myers Brothers ceremony.
Do you think the fans and media need to show more respect to our Sprint Cup champions like Kurt Busch etc.?
There are champions that deserve our respect and those that do not. If the Kurt Busch that existed back in '04 when he won his title ever returns he will have people's respect. If the spoiled brat foul-mouthed Kurt Busch that we saw this year decides to stick around then he's on his own.
Why would anyone want to drive for Roush when he can't get sponsorship for a former Cup Champ, Nationwide Champ, and last year's Daytona 500 winner? It seems like other organizations do not have as big a problem with it
It's not just a Roush Fenway problem. RCR is contracting. Stewart-Haas just put two cars in the Chase and they can't secure full sponsorship. Trucks and Nationwide teams are shutting down. This is far from an RFR-exclusive problem. And keep in mind they also prop up the Wood Brothers and RPM.
How's Rick Hendrick doing? Does Stewart's win on Sunday count as his 200th win?
He's doing much better. Was in the hospital for almost a week resting some cracked ribs. He didn't return to the track, which he thought might be a good luck charm because he missed HMS's 1st, 100th, and 150th wins. Alas, it was not. And while Mr. H was certainly one of the first to congratulate Tony on the title, no, that win does not count as his 200th.
Darien Grubb tried to throw that race for Tony as payback for firing. Poll all crew chiefs I bet not 5% would have made that call with how fast Tonys car was. He tried to lose it for him. Thoughts?
Not a chance. Yeah, he tried to so hard to lose the title that he held his son and wept on national television.
Quite the opposite. At the time I really questioned what he was doing with the pit strategy, but he ended up calling a great race.
Penske and JGR will quit "putting up" with the Busch brothers when no sponsor wants them.
Were you disappointed that so-called "fans" booed our First Lady and Dr. Biden?
I was. But honestly I thought the story was way overplayed. I was standing out there when it happened. Every politician, no matter what their party or position, gets booed at the racetrack. I've heard Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and even Barbara Dole get booed. It wasn't entirely clear to the grandstand why they were there - to promote their foundation to support returning troops - and a lot of people were mad because the security problems it created had been a hassle. None of that is an excuse for booing two women that have nothing but the upmost respect for. But I didn't think it quite the overwhelmingly rain of hate that some of the non-sports media outlets portrayed.
Your sitting in the SHR Boardroom next week, who would you pick to be crew chief's for each of the team's drivers?
The way today has gone, with all these crew chief changes, I might wait it out until after the banquet and see who is available first.
When do you think sponsors will quit putting up with Dale Jr's 129 race losing streak?
I think that Dale Jr, even winless, is more valuable to sponsors than a lot of guys who are winning. And it's hilarious to me how people cotinually refuse to compare where he is now versus one year ago. He finished 7th in points. Last year he was 21st and the year before that he was 25th! Comparing the 88 now to the 88 then is nuts.
Do you see more start & parkers entering races next year, or are we in danger of short fields again?
I think we are. The good news is that the front half of the field might be the strongest its ever been. The bad news is that the back half is getting weaker.
It reminded me of Dario Franchitti's win at Homestead in 2009, Dixon and Briscoe (sorry Nicole) were faster, but Dario played the fuel game and stayed out longer, ultimately he made it to the end without a late stop and the other two didn't, he won the race and title.
There was a lot of talk about that day this weekend among those of us who had covered both that race and the one we had Sunday night.
So JGR and Penske would replace 2 of the best drivers in the world? And replace them with who exactly? Kurt Busch was the only reason Penske was around the past few years, and look how bad the Gibbs cars run without Kyle's input
If a sponsor isn't happy, especially in this climate, you make them happy.
Hey, I'm busy the week of the Rockingham Truck Race...wanna sub in for me? No one will suspect a thing...
Anytime, my twin brother from another mother.
Grubb made the right call, not because they wound up winning the race, BUT because the call put them in a position to leapfrog the 99 without having to pass him for the lead on the race track.
And any right call is the right call.
Any hint of any rule or point changes for next year?
I don't see how they can. I'm a well-documented proponent of giving the race winner a little more than he gets now. But after last weekend it might be a bit of PR disaster to mess with anything.
As a fan of The Busch Brothers, I think the media has too much access to the drivers. Do you see NASCAR going to more of a F1 environment where driver interviews are controlled?
I hope not. I have covered both and despite what you say, I think it would alienate fans way quicker than you realize.
Is there any Crew Chief out there that would be willing to put up with Kurt Busch's whining? I'm amazed his head fits in his helmet with that ego.
They thought of winning races, no matter what you have to put with to get there, will always win.
Who's your 2012 Champion? Happy Thanksgiving
I say Carl edges out Jimmie and Harvick. And Happy Thanksgiving to you too.
Alright folks, gotta go. I give thanks to all of you that stopped by today and throughout the season. Whether we agree or not, this conversation is one of the favorite hours of my week. Until next time, as always, tip your wait staff. And enjoy the music of GRITS: The Musical.