What's up my post-Super Bowl nacho cheese dust covered brothers and sisters and welcome to a special Terrific Tuesday edition of the Monday Motorsports Block Party Chat. It's the first chat of 2012 and with the Daytona 500 just 19 days away it's time to get started!
Which is more likely this season: Clint Bowyer making the Chase for MWR or AJ Allmendinger making the Chase for Penske?
Dinger. You look at what he did last year with a team that had nearly closed its doors the year before and now he's getting into a car that won races and made the Chase one year ago. That's a good combo.
I think Bowyer will raise the game at MWR but they have some work to do yet.
Who is your darkhorse for the 500? Elliot Sadler in the 33?
I like Sadler in that RCR car a lot. But how about Kurt Busch with James Finch? I think they will really struggle once the post-Daytona "regular season" starts, but that team has proven it can take care of business in plate races and Kurt's not bad himself.
Ryan, isn't it ashame that guys like Ryan Truex and Josh Wise can not get decent NW rides while the Busch brothers run a team to get themselves cheap wins at that level and steal sponsors?
There was definitely some grumbling about that during the Nationwide Series night of the NASCAR Media Tour. The good news for the Nationwide regs is they won't have to deal with Carl Edwards every week. The bad news is that they have inherited the Busch boys with a chip on their shoulders.
Can the 24 get #5 this year? If so, what must they do differently in 2012?
They certainly can. As much of a bummer as the finish to last year was, if you back up and take a look at what they did vs. recent years it was a giant step in the right direction. Talking to the guys on the 24 team, particuarly Jeff, there's a lot of renewed energy in the shop because of the ideas that Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis have brought to the table.
You have to remember, those two have been on the other side of enemy lines with Dodge, Ford, Roush Fenway, and Toyota. There isn't a lot they haven't seen.
Hey Ryan. I was wondering: Am I the only one that's already sick
You won't have to. I think she will get a ridiculous amount of coverage during Daytona. Talking to the folks at the track there are already a lot of non-racing media outlets who are asking about covering the race, specifically her. But because this is her first full year I think as the spring rolls on, the hype will subside a good bit.
At the Homestead finale last November I was assigned to keep an eye on her night. She wrecked out very late. I went back to the garage expecting a giant media horde and you know what the horde was? Me. That was it. It was a loooong way from the zoo at Daytona just nine months earlier.
Ryan, welcome back! Taking into account his shutting down KHI, do you think the addition of Shane Wilson and the downsizing to 3 cars at RCR will put Kevin Harvick over the top this year?
Thanks Lee! I think all of the above will certainly help. Without the added distraction of running KHI there's no doubt he just looks more relaxed this year.
I remember there was concern before over whether or not cutting back on his Nationwide schedule would hurt him on the Cup side, that he was the kind of racer that had to be busy all the time. That certainly hasn't been the case and I think it won't be this time either.
What's the over/under on the percentage of time in the 500 that will be spent in tandems (vs. pack racing)?
We had a long meeting with NASCAR's Competition dept. on Monday and asked about that. We also asked the drivers during Media Tour. Everyone agrees that they won't be able to run in pairs all day like they did last year. But they also said two things...
1. They won't know for sure how long they can or can't run in packs and/or pairs until the 150's, even moreso than the Shootout.
2. No matter how long the packs hold together, it will likely be a two-car berakaway that wins the race.
I have no problem with that. That's been the case at Daytona since Junior Johnson discovered the draft to win the second 500 in 1960.
What is it in sports that always has the younger sibling being more successful than the elder? This includes the Busch brothers, the Mannings, the William sisters, the up and coming Dillon brothers.
Grab me some ticker tape! That's a great question and it does seem to happen a lot. I just filed a story for ESPN The Magazine (out later this week) that looks into the psychology of how relationships - friend or family - plays into rivalries. It seems to either make the younger one hungrier as they had to sit and watch their older sibling do well first. Or sometimes, as the Willams are frequently accused of, it leads to kind of blah results when they go head-to-head.
One thing about the Busch boys, love 'em or hate 'em, there's nothing blah about them.
With so many drivers on the hot seat and under intense pressure to perform, (Burton, AJ, Brad, Truex, Joey, Bowyer, Biffel, Newman) do you expect much more aggressive racing in '12?
Maybe so. We do seem to be entering this side of the raicng cycle that comes around every so often, when there is a bit of a garage purge. Guys have to perform in order to hold off the youngsters coming up. And we have more great young guys coming up right now that we've had in a very long time.
It certainly seemed to create short fuses among the short-timers last fall. No reason to think that won't happen again.
Hey Ryan, with Junior leading 50 total laps in 2011 vs. 1,800 by Rowdy, how can that 88 team claim to be going into '12 with momentum or is that just typical off season hyperbole?
You have to compare where the 88 was in 2010, or even 2009, vs. where it was at the end of 2011. Night and day. 22nd in points vs. 7th. That's where the signs of improvement are.
And I see where you're going with the laps led comparison. Really in every major statistic, Kyle romps Junior. But at the end of the day he also finished five spots lower in the standings.
How does Jr. qualify for the shootout when he hasn't won a race in 4 years while Mark Martin doesn't qualify yet he won 5 race in '09?
Hell, I don't know. I'm pretty sure there's a clause in the new Shootout rules that would make you and me eligible.
Do you share the same Brad K. 2012 expectations as some of your other ESPN brothers?
I do. And we're not alone. I've got my NASCAR preview mags (our ESPN The Magazine preview is out later this week) and everyone has him at least in the top ten, most in the top five or even top two. I'm not ready to put him that high, but I like where he's headed.
He looked very, very comfortable during the Media Tour in his new role as Penske's #1 guy.
Do you think racing for the halfway cash could lead a "big one". Sure would make the last half boring if much of the field was gone. Also, would some of the "start and park" teams stay unitl halfway just for a chance at the cash?
Funny you should bring that up, dw! I have a story that was just posted to ESPN.com on this very topic. You can read it here: http://espn.go.com/racing/nascar/cup/story/_/id/7550159/nascar-daytona-500-halfway-bonus-big-deal
The Cliff's Notes version is this: All the concern about the halfway money is much ado about nothing. It's cool. And there's no doubt guys will race for it (hey, it is $200,000!) but as I found when I looked at the four plate races last year, they can't possibly race any harder than they already are.
And halfway bonus cash is nothing new. We haven't had it in six years, but before that it was around for three decades!
Look Ryan, my husband can't drive the bleeping car and change the tires too.
Ryan, I beg to differ that Kyle is the more successful Busch bro. Kurt has a cup title that I am sure Kyle would trade his minor wins for any day of the week. Thoughts?
I hear you, but I also see what Edgar was saying. I think even with Kurt's success and consistency, not to mention that Cup title, the perception over the last five years at least is that Kyle has had a better run. But I agree with you. Kyle would trade in his 100 across-all-series wins for one Cup title.
If J. Burton has another bad year any chance this would be his last with RCR
Probably not this year, but maybe next. There's a definite plan at RCR that involves putting Austin - and then Ty - Dillon into Cup cars in the not-so-distant future. But they both have to get their college degrees first (that's the deal they have with Richard) and everyone seems to be content to take their time. No one has said as much in public, but I think the plan would be two years in Nationwide for Austin, then replace retiring Burton.
But to your point, if Burton struggles and Dillon were to win the Nationwide title, there will be cries to speed up the timeline.
However, I don't think Burton will struggle like he has been.
Who has the better year? Kurt or AJ
AJ. Not even close.
Ryan, I know this isn't NASCAR related, but are the Scarlet Knights pretty much doomed for years to come with Schiano leaving so suddenly?
No problem. Just plays into my two-sport life! I think they won't miss a beat. Flood is solid. Knows how things work around there. He isn't Mario Cristobal, but he's a solid second choice.
Ryan, can you please add a LIKE button to the comments/questions? I'm enjoying this chat session!!
And that means I "like" you!
As an 11 fan, should I be excited about this season?
Yes. There's no doubt that Denny was in a post-2010 Cup loss funk last year. He's over that. He's been out in Arizona playing golf and getting in shape. And I think both he and Darian Grubb are in prove-something mode.
The only potential speed bump will Joe Gibbs Racing stopping their in-house engine program and going with TRD engines out of California. I know the JGR drivers weren't happy with their engines, but this TRD move just feels dicey to me. We'll see.
Do you think Vicker's insane behavior has kept him from getting a ride this year. I hope so.
Didn't help. I did NASCAR Now with Andy Petree right after that and asked AP to put his owner's hat on and tell me if he would return Brian's phone calls after that crazy fall. He said nope.
I think Carl will be everyone's preseason favorite. But right now, two weeks before I have to post my preseason ESPN.com Power Rankings, I'm leaning toward the 29 or 48.
y u doo u think gibbs was soo off last year not only did logano struggle but hamiln and bush at time didnt look to great
It was a so-so year across the board. Kyle's hot early season run kind of glossed it over, but by the fall they were all struggling.
I think getting rid of a off week for Sprint Cup seems a good thing for the drivers and fans, but the worst part for the fans is wait a week more. What do you think?
I like it. And not just because I will finally be home for Valentine's Day for the first time in a decade and a half. I think it is good to make folks wait just a little longer. Makes you miss it more. That's part of why I don't miss the three weeks of testing we used to have every January in Daytona.
Ask the NFL. It's good to make your fans miss you.
What is going on at JGR? Why is everything catching on fire?
Two totally different incidents in two different departments, engine shop in 2011 and machine shop in 2012. But the two dates were only a few days off. I think next year I'd take that week off.
Hi Ryan; How do you think JPM is going to do this year and is this a make or break year for him?
I really think it is. This will be year six for him. Still no wins on ovals and only one points finish higher than 17th. I don't think he's going to be fired or anything, but every career has a hump from which they either get on a roll or never recover and it feels like he's right there. Same for his teammate, Jamie McMurray.
Hey Ryan, I know "The Biff" just signed an extension during last season, but would another year like 2011 be trouble for him?
Greg is an interesting case. I don't think he's at quite the fork in the road as some of these others guys. He did make the Chase three straight years before last year. But he's also no spring chicken. He's 42. With the like of Bayne and Stenhouse in the Roush Fenway camp, he needs to start winning to keep his seat.
The big thing he can do is convert some of those early season opportunities - like Phoenix, Vegas, and Bristol last year - into wins.
Do you see Kurt raising the game at Phoenix the way Tony did at Haas?
It's a bit different because he's not getting ownership of the team. And Phoenix is light years behind where Haas-CNC was. They had personnel issues, but their space and equipment was top shelf before Tony got there.
I really believe Kurt will be gone from there sometime during the summer, having left to fill a better ride. But only if he's been on his best behavior. Talking to team owners about whether or not they considered hiring him over the winter, nearly 100% said he was too touchy for sponsors to deal with.
It's early to be asking...but I like that 29 right now. Ask me again when we do the Monday chat after the Shootout.
McGee, Junior made the shootout because he was in the chase, and a Daytona winner. Martin isn't in it because Mikey wants to run it.
There you go. Thanks Jacob. I hate to have such a bleh attitude about Shootout and All-Star Race eligibility, but I get tired of trying to sort it out when they change the rules every year. Especially when they open what should be exclusive all-star fields to too many people.
Wow! That was a crazy-fast hour. If you get a chance, head over and read my just-posted story on the Daytona 500 halfway bonus. And until next time you can hit me up on Twitter (@RyanMCGeeESPN), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on my "Ryan McGee - Sportswriter" Facebook page.
As always, tip your waiter and enjoy the music of The Dan Band.