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Amy Henderson

Side By Side: Can A Single-Car Team Find A NASCAR Winner’s Circle?

Side By Side: Can A Single-Car Team Find A NASCAR Winner’s Circle?

*This Week's Question: It's been nearly two seasons since a single-car team was able to break into Victory Lane at NASCAR's highest level, though a few have flirted with a win. Could we see a single-car team get back there this year?* Amy Henderson, Managing Editor: You Could See It This Week in Talladega, As a Matter of Fact While several of NASCAR's smaller teams got off to a fast start in 2013, wins by those organizations are few and far between. It isn't a lack of talent or ambition that keeps them out of Victory Lane; it's one thing and one thing only: money, or the lack thereof. Read More »

The Big Six: Questions Answered After Sprint Cup’s Food City 500

The Big Six: Questions Answered After Sprint Cup’s Food City 500

_Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday's race? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H… the Big Six._ *Who… gets my shoutout of the race?* This is one of those weeks where this answer is a tough call. With four single-car teams inside the top 20, a great run by a midpack organization, and a solid day for a rookie, there were truly several drivers all worthy of a second look. But perhaps one of the hardest things to do in racing is to step into a race car on a limited basis and get the same finishes as a regular. That's exactly what *Brian Vickers* did — again — on Sunday, finishing eighth in the No. 55 and that earns him the nod. Read More »

Brendan Gaughan Driver Diary: A Racing Deal, Shark Diving, and the Nerd Machine

It really kind of stinks for the team the way the schedule is set us, because you don't get in a rhythm. You go one race, and you know, for the guy that wins at Daytona, it's great. He gets a month and half of being the only winner and the points leader. But for the rest of us, we want to get racing. With the RCR bunch, I was supposed to go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was really smart on Richard's part; we took my whole truck team. Because the Truck Series was off, we took my truck team, and they were working on the car, and Danny Stockman and the No. 3 team in the Nationwide shop set the car up and then we took it and let our boys do the nuts and bolts. We took our truck, our trailer, and we sat in Las Vegas and watched it rain. That was a big bummer for all the boys. But that's part of the deal; no biggie. Now, we're having a busy stretch of testing. I'm sitting right now at Motor Mile in Radford, Virginia, testing all day. We leave Sunday for Texas Motor Speedway, so we're busy right now. It's not like we're just sitting on our butts saying, 'hmm, what do we do?' We're keeping busy and learning a bunch, but it does stink, because as a racer, you want to race. You want to get in a rhythm, you want to keep going, and you just kind of sit here going, 'Okay, well, I've got time off. My car chief took a vacation. One of our guys just had a baby, so it's nice for him…' but all of us are sitting here thinking that we want to get to the track and race. The Truck Series needs to have a couple more races. The real reason for that being the sponsors; we've got to give them value for their dollar, and 22 races is not enough to give the sponsor value. It didn't save us money; it didn't save the teams a whole bunch of money having three fewer races. NASCAR knows this, and they tried to add a couple races to the schedule. They're still trying. They didn't get it worked out. They added a road course, they added the dirt track, so they've taken some bold steps. We've heard they're going to add a new short track to the schedule next year. They'll probably gain a track somewhere, so we'll probably get back to the right number of races. That's all you can really do, just add races. We need about three or four more races for the trucks. There's a big gap here where you could add one or two. There's another gap where you could maybe add one. I don't think it's anything that's vital; it just isn't good from the sponsor end because we needs those races for sponsor value. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14494.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"181\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Find out how Brendan Gaughan has spent the long early season truck series break. It's probably not what you expect!</p></div> Our Chevy was fast at Daytona. It was way fast. It was a bummer. Everybody looks at it and some people say, \"what the hell, you're an idiot,\" and some people say they saw what happened. It depends on your point of view. I made a mistake on pit road that put us back further than we should have been. Then you only have one more stop to make the difference, and the guy that is pitting in the stall right in front of me happens to be two spots ahead of me on the race track. So, you want to get in front of him because that's the guy who gives you a good opening on pit road. I wanted to get by him, I set the deal up for about five laps. I kept watching Newberry, and the kid's never been to Daytona, so he's just trying to bide his time and be patient, but I kept making him look outside, and I made him open a hole. I was intentionally doing something to get him to open a hole. He opened the hole and I went through the hole. Once you're in the hole, I'm now basically at the mercy of somebody else to sit there and do the right thing. As soon as he felt me, he should have just moved back up, but he did not. And look, he'll never do that again. There's a difference as a driver. If I'm at your rear bumper, just barely in there, yeah, I need to get out of there. If I'm pushing at your bumper, I'm not there. But if I'm at your rear tire, there's no more 'pretty much;' I'm there. So it's a deal where, he's a good kid, he made a mistake. You can say I got impatient, I got this or that. I had a reason to get there, and it wasn't impatience. I spent laps setting it up. It was just a racing thing. I got put in a bad spot—I put myself in a bad spot. He got in a spot where he could have got himself out of it, because once I committed, there's no getting out of there. There's no hitting brakes or anything like that. It's not a big deal. It was just a racing gig, that's all. It stinks for points, but we're going to go to Martinsville, my favorite place in the world, and we're going to go there and win a race. We spent a lot of time during the offseason at our family's house in Colorado. We went up to Colorado and I had my 25-month-old skiing with me, and we went from the top of the mountain to the bottom. He's 25 months old and we went from the top of Vail Mountain to our house at the bottom. As a father, I don't know if there's any cooler of a feeling than watching your son accomplish something like that and being a part of that. It was so neat. I've been skiing since I was two and a half. It was just so invigorating to have my son and do that. It was neat. And then the new baby, there's a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of bottles and poopy diapers, but it's all worth it. It's all great. Now it's race time, and they travel to a lot of races with me. I got a new sponsor, Alliance Coach. For the last couple of years, they gave me a coach for Daytona, because we're there for two weeks. Well, I finally talked them into giving me a deal for the year. The main reason for that is I can't expect Tatum and the babies to come and stay in a hotel if they're going to come watch a race. I've got to have a motor coach, a place for them to be. Alliance stepped up and gave me a sponsorship, and I go pick up my motor coach in a couple of days, and I'm excited about that. Now I get to have the babies at a bunch of races with me, and that makes me happy! I'm a Dive Master for Lake Norman SCUBA. I do a whole lot of diving. As a matter of fact, I have a trip planned during one of our breaks, where I'm going out to this middle-of-nowhere island. I'm really excited about it. I'm taking the owners of Lake Norman SCUBA and a bunch of friends from Colorado and my wife, and the grandparents are going to watch the babies, and we're going to go do a big dive trip. I'll dive anything. This place we're going to, there's no shipwrecks; it's all big animals. We're going in a season that has schooling hammerheads, whale sharks, giant Pacific rays—it's a big animal place. I tech dive; I'm a dive master, and I'm working on getting my instructor rating. I do a lot of diving and enjoy the hell out of it. My favorite place to dive is this island called Soccoro Island. It's a protected area off of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It's like the Galapagos of Mexico. It's phenomenal. The giant Pacific manta rays are the most gorgeous animals you'll ever see. Shark diving is fun. Stephen Spielburg created a phenomenon that lives to this day. I love diving with sharks. There are a ton of sharks out there. We're hoping this year to see schooling hammerheads and whale sharks. I could go to heaven then, it would be amazing. It's unbelievable how the rays are. They're like dolphins almost; they're very social animals. They come and play with you forever, it's just really impressive. That's my favorite place to go right now. I'm a tech diver, and what tech diving means is that I can go past what's called the decompression limit of recreational diving. I can go deeper than that; 225 feet is my max depth right now. To do that, you carry four tanks, two on your back and two on your chest. I've been to the USS Oriskany that's off the coast of Florida. The cool thing about the Oriskany is that that's the boat that John McCain took off from when he got shot down in the Vietman War and became a POW. I've been inside it, we penetrated the wreck, and I've gone to the bottom of it at 220 feet down. I love tech diving. It's a phenomenal time. I love my diving. If I can be underwater or on a mountain skiing, that's where you'll find me. There's a new Star Wars movie coming out in 2015. Lucas is a genius. He took some heat over the first three movies, so he got mad and sold the rights to Disney. They're probably the only company that has the money to do that correctly. I love the director; I do know the storylines and what they're supposed to be like. I can't wait to see what it's going to look like on film. I'm pumped. I can't wait until they come out. To watch them filmed would be another one of those heaven-type moments. It's cool. I'm waiting for them I think it's going to be done well, and they have the right people doing it. In this world, it doesn't matter if you're a race car driver or a movie producer, you need the right people. Those deals are so cool. I'm just a geek like that. Have you seen my race helmet? It's called the Nerd Machine helmet. If you watched the TV show _Chuck_, it was a TV show about a computer geek that became a spy and a computer got put in his head. He worked for the Nerd Herd, which was like the Geek Squad, but he was just this everyday computer geek that became a CIA agent. I've had a chance to meet him, the guy that owns this, and they have a Website called the Nerd Machine. I'm a big dork. I'm a _Chuck_ nerd, I'm a Comic-Con kind of guy, and I've got the Nerd Machine logo on my helmet. *Connect with Brendan Gaughan!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/Brendan62\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><a href=\"http://www.brendangaughan.com\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/11799.jpg\"><br> \"Contact Amy Henderson\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14352/ Read More »

Let's Be Realistic: Putting Gen-6 Expectations In Perspective

The complaints are raining down fast and heavy about NASCAR's new Gen-6 race cars—they can't pass, they don't draft well. Even the drivers have been in on the discussion; Denny Hamlin got a fine from NASCAR for his complaints about the car after the race at Phoenix last week. Everyone seems ready to jump on the \"Gen Sux\" bandwagon after two races this year. Now hold on a minute. Wasn't this the car that was supposed to save NASCAR and make all the races full of on-track action? Well, yes. But there are two things going on here that are fueling the complaints. One, perhaps the expectation that a redesigned car could fix everything was a little unrealistic. Two, it's still several months too early to make an accurate assessment of what this car can and cannot do. Let's take a look at the Gen-6, why it's simply impossible to give it a final grade of any kind, and what fans can—and can't—expect from it, along with some of the more realistic ways to turn things around in the sport. *Why it's too early to pass judgment* I've said all along that everyone, from drivers to media to fans, needs to wait until the second race at tracks to even begin to say with any kind of understanding whether or not the new cars are up to snuff. The reason is simple: you have to remember that the teams have had limited track time with these cars, and they don't have a folder full of notes from previous races to compare them to. Plus, every track has some individual quirks and is raced under different conditions, so even applying, say, notes from Fontana to Michigan, will not give an accurate picture the first time or two. Because teams are still trying to figure out how to make the cars handle, it's not really fair to accuse them of not trying on track, either. Car inventory is not where it was for most teams with the old car yet, and they're not going to risk a month's setback racing for fifth on lap 100. It's entertainment to fans, but to race teams, it's their livelihood, and they're going to do what's best for them long term. That can be applied to racing in general. To fans in March, it's frustrating that teams concentrate on the Chase, but the reality is, that's where the money is, and that's where they focus (along with the biggest reason that the Chase is bad for the sport, but I digress…). Once teams are better adjusted to the car, then it will be time for NASCAR to take an objective look at the racing (and I sincerely hope they will do so), and make tweaks as necessary. Expect them to take a look at things like spoiler height and angle and other things that affect handling and downforce. Hand it to NASCAR, they have already made one change to help reduce the huge benefit of clean air by eliminating the camera pods on the car's roof once it was discovered that they gave the leader a significant advantage (80-90 pounds of downforce, which translates into quite a bit of speed) but not the cars behind him. If they can continue to do that without worrying about what the manufacturers and teams say, the cars can and will improve. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14618.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">It's too early to pass judgment on the new Gen-6 cars, but everyone has to be realistic about just how much of what ails NASCAR one car can fix.</p></div> All of that means that it's just way too early to call the Gen-6 car a success or a failure. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, be patient, and remember that good things come to those who wait for them. Once the teams and NASCAR learn more, it's likely that fans will see the benefits of making changes the _right_ way—based on knowledge and forward thinking, not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened during one or two weeks. *What fans should be able to expect from the Gen-6 down the road* While a lot of people talked about the Gen-6 car as if it would be the one savior that racing has been looking for, that's simply not true. Fans can and should expect some things from this car, but perhaps not on the grand scale that they had hoped for. First, the car goes back to one thing fans have been clamoring for since the Car of Tomorrow made its debut and probably even before that: brand identity. The SS looks like an SS, the Fusion looks like a Fusion, and the Camry looks like a Camry. Hopefully that will bring back a bit of the \"win on Sunday, sell on Monday\" attitude that was a part of the sport for so long before the COT and the later incarnations of its predecessor. That's good for the sport because it's good for the industry. Simply put, if Chevy, Ford, and Toyota are making more money because people like what they see in the cars, they can put more money back into improving their racing programs, which produces a better product on the racetrack. While it may seem like a small thing, in the larger picture of the sport, what the cars look like is very important. The Gen-6 design changes also mean that teams shouldn't be able to skew them to the right the way that they did with the fourth-generation cars and even, to a smaller extent, to the COT. While that may have helped handling, it looked grotesque and prompted cries of foul among teams. This car can't be as easily manipulated, so teams won't gain an advantage by altering the geometry. Plus, the more the cars got skewed in the past, the worse they looked to the observer. While people thought the COT was ugly, the car before that, the fourth-generation, was even worse by the end of its era; if you looked at one from the front, it was apparent just how out-of-shape they really were. Fans can also, hopefully, expect to see the racing put more in the drivers' hands and less in the hands of the engineers. While that might bring complaints from some drivers, it does showcase some of the talent that may have been overlooked with the older car. If you look at the results from Phoenix, for example, there were teams in the top 15 that you might not expect—because they figured it out first. That's good for the sport (or at least it would be if those teams got the broadcast time they deserved) because it forces drivers to drive, and it puts the emphasis on what the fans see every week, the drivers behind the wheel, rather than on what happens behind closed doors back at the shop. Hopefully, if the car is difficult to drive, this will remain even after the teams with more resources get better at working with it. *What nobody should expect* Simply put, anyone who expects this race car to magically create 500 miles of non-stop action every week is going to be sorely disappointed. That's just totally unrealistic at most tracks for many reasons. First and foremost, in the 65-year history of the sport, it has never been nonstop passing and vying for the lead on every lap of every race, or even most of them. When part of what the sport is testing is the endurance and flexibility of both driver and equipment as it is at the Cup level, racing every lap like it's the last just isn't part of any smart race team's strategy. Any driver worth his salt will tell you that to finish first, you must first _finish_, and sometimes that means not taking every available risk. Winning is still what teams want most every week, and they will do what they can to make sure that the driver and car are capable of making the moves when it counts…and that's just not every lap, and never has been in the longer Cup races. The emphasis that's put on the championship, however, has changed teams' focus, especially in more recent years, and even more especially since the addition of the Chase. There is a ton of money at stake in the year-end point fund, and the top teams know that. They race for points when they can't race for the win, and some teams do revert to a kind of test mode once they're comfortable with their Chase status because they know that those ten races are more important in the scheme of things than a win at Pocono in August. That mentality is far more destructive to the on-track product than any race car ever has been or will be. Simply put, if NASCAR wants teams to race for the win, the emphasis needs to be on winning races throughout the season rather than the championship. Perhaps they should put that year-end point money into the winners' purses for the 36-race season and give a nice trophy and a trip to the banquet for the champion and that's all. It would still be an honor to win the title, but it would put the actual races higher on the priority list. Most local short-track teams race for the win every week first and their title second because the title just isn't that big a deal—and they all race every week like it's a title battle. Perhaps NASCAR should be taking notes on that. Also, if people want the race cars to look like the street cars, it's time to accept that aerodynamic dependence isn't something NASCAR can get rid of. They can tweak with downforce with spoilers, etc., but the reality is that if people want the cars to look like the street version, they're going to be aero-dependent because the _street version_ is aero dependent. As drivers, we want cars with better fuel mileage and that are fun and easy to drive. A more aerodynamic car gets better mileage and is, generally, easier and more fun to drive (If you disagree, try driving a box truck instead of your car for a couple of weeks and see if that's really your definition of fun.). There is a reason that the cars of the 1970's and 1980's became obsolete-consumers wanted better gas mileage and more streamlined cars. And so, if a race car is to look like a street car as the word \"stock\" in stock car racing implies, it's going to have superior aerodynamics to its predecessors…and be more dependent on that aspect for handling. *So, is there a fix?* ... Read More »