Thursday , October 23 2014
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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? Junior Stressed Out? Said Rained Out? And Why Did McDowell Pout?

Did You Notice? Junior Stressed Out? Said Rained Out? And Why Did McDowell Pout?

*Did You Notice?* ... That Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looks a little haggard lately? In virtually every single interview I’ve seen him do over the past two months, Junior’s answers are so slow and meticulously constructed it feels like he’s processing the question in slow motion. I feel like it’s either one of two things – it’s either Junior’s stressed out, or he’s still adjusting a bit in his new role at the more politically correct Hendrick Motorsports. Remember, the Most Popular Driver is also in the midst of figuring out his own identity after leaving the family-owned team and the comfort of a beer sponsor for two backers in Mountain Dew and the National Guard in which he’s expected to be a role model for kids _and_ adults. Add in the increasing demands of his JR Motorsports team, and it’s clear Junior’s got a lot on his mind these days. Read More »

Did You Notice? … NASCAR And Politics, Raining On Goodyear, And Penske’s Nasty Divorce

Did You Notice? … NASCAR And Politics, Raining On Goodyear, And Penske’s Nasty Divorce

*Did You Notice?* … Ryan Newman’s comments during and after the Pocono race on Sunday? During the rain delay, he criticized his team for the choice they made to bring his car down pit road (a move which turned out to be the right call). Then, after the race, these were his comments concerning a 14th place finish, a run which actually bumped him up the points ladder to 15th position: "Strategy was important, but our Avis Dodge was disappointing. It would not go [no horsepower] down the straightaways. You’re not going to win races like that. It’s disappointing." It’s clear Newman’s no longer holding back what he feels about the operation; and with the possibility the team will need a new sponsor next season due to the Verizon/Alltel merger (remember, Sprint can block Verizon’s sponsorship) is it really in Penske’s best interest to employ a driver who has no incentive _not_ to throw his team under the bus anymore? Read More »

Did You Notice? … The Busch-Edwards Rivalry That Isn’t, Truex’s Public Posturing, And Touting Terry Labonte?

Did You Notice? … The Busch-Edwards Rivalry That Isn’t, Truex’s Public Posturing, And Touting Terry Labonte?

*Did You Notice?* … That halfway through the season, Carl Edwards has finished second in a Sprint Cup race three times – and all three of them have been to Kyle Busch. Edwards likes to play this up as a rivalry, but right now, Busch is putting on a good ol’ fashioned butt whooping -- whether you want to admit it or not. Right now, Edwards trails Busch in wins (six to three), points (149), Top 5s (11 to 7), and Laps Led (900 to 396). Only in Top 10s does Edwards have a razor-thin edge – 13 to 12 – but that’s not going to be enough if he wants to overtake the No. 18 when it really counts in November. Still, for those who despise Busch’s dominance during the first half of the Cup circuit, there’s hope Edwards can bounce back. So far this season, he’s won twice on tracks 1.5 miles in length – that’s one more than Busch, who paced the field at Atlanta but finished well behind the No. 99 at both Texas and Las Vegas. Since five 1.5-mile race tracks make up the ten race Chase, that should give Edwards a bit of an edge. Read More »

Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch Throws Away The Win, NASCAR’s Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate, And Jeremy Mayfield: MIA

Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch Throws Away The Win, NASCAR’s Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate, And Jeremy Mayfield: MIA

*Did You Notice?* … That amidst all the Silly Season talk, no one’s brought up the name of two-time Chase participant Jeremy Mayfield? Since parting ways with Haas CNC Racing earlier this season, Mayfield’s been nowhere to be found. Did his difficult divorces from Penske Racing and Gillett Evernham Motorsports permanently damage his stock on the open market? While I think that might have made an impact, in an era where talent is at a premium and men like Mark Martin are going back to full-time racing at 50, you’d have to think there’d be a spot open for Mayfield somewhere. A good writing friend of mine brought up this crazy scenario... Read More »

Did You Notice? … Harvick’s Drought, Franchitti On The Outs, And DEI Losing Its Clout?

Did You Notice? … Harvick’s Drought, Franchitti On The Outs, And DEI Losing Its Clout?

*Did You Notice?* … That in expanding my short and sweet column from Monday, Kevin Harvick’s winless streak in Cup racing – as Danny Peters so "dutifully pointed out":http://www.frontstretch.com/dpeters/17807/ is up to 51 races, with his last points-paying win occurring at the 2007 Daytona 500. Wait a minute … isn’t that the _disputed_ Daytona 500 for the ages, in which Harvick’s opportunity at the win came when NASCAR chose not to throw a caution once cars wrecked off Turn 4 in the final lap of the race? Just think of where this man’s career would be right now if he didn’t have that victory in hand; or, if Mark Martin had just enough to hold off his last lap charge. Last season, the No. 29 barely made the Chase despite that win, and struggled to a 10th place finish in the final standings. But there’s more: in Harvick’s last 52 starts, he has just _six_ Top 5 finishes. Among the drivers who have as many – or more – during that span are outgoing Hendrick Motorsports driver Casey Mears, part-timer Mark Martin, and 2008 Daytona 500 winner-turned mediocre performer Ryan Newman. Read More »

Did You Notice? … The Father’s Day Love For Junior, Sorenson’s Pending Pink Slip, And Goofus And Gallant

Did You Notice? … The Father’s Day Love For Junior, Sorenson’s Pending Pink Slip, And Goofus And Gallant

*Did You Notice?* … And I know it’s been mentioned countless times already, but three days later I still can’t get over the irony of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning his first race for Rick Hendrick on Father’s Day. The bond these two share has been well-documented, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what was on both of their minds during that special day. I mean, just think about what Junior said in Victory Circle; the first points-paying win in two years, to the point where a monkey was clearly lifted off his back, and he referenced Happy Father’s Day about three times. For both, it was not only the continued validation of a partnership they both firmly believed in, but another moment in which they shared the pain of past experiences to cement a bond that’s rapidly becoming family – not car owner, not friend. Of course, Junior always wanted the car owner who would come up to him in Victory Lane and truly be appreciative of his driver and their success; what he didn’t have with his stepmom, he now has with Hendrick – but this additional bond, now that’s a real bonus for both of them. Read More »

Did You Notice? Nice Guys Finish Last, NASCAR’s Diversity Nightmare, And Chase Vulnerability

Did You Notice? Nice Guys Finish Last, NASCAR’s Diversity Nightmare, And Chase Vulnerability

*Did You Notice?* … That one of the compelling themes in NASCAR as of late is proof of the phrase, “Nice guys finish last?” David Reutimann is the latest example; known as a man who won’t bump anyone out of the way in order to get to the front, Reutimann got loose with Clint Bowyer oh-so-close behind him in the final laps of the Nashville race on Saturday night. While Brad Keselowski went on to win, Reutimann – who had been in position to take the checkers before a late-race caution bunched up the field -- fell back to a fourth place finish on older tires. “The No. 2 got a good start and we got down into (turn) three and he was real close to the back of me and got me loose,” Reutimann said when it was all said and done. “He didn't touch me - we were racing.” “Once the No. 2 got to us, it was game over.” Read More »

Did You Notice? … Family Favoritism, Biting The Hand That Feeds You, And Statistical Silliness?

Did You Notice? … Family Favoritism, Biting The Hand That Feeds You, And Statistical Silliness?

*Did You Notice?* … That halfway through the regular season, not a single person in the Top 12 in points is a first-time Chase participant? We can expand that out to individual teams, too, as each of their car owners has been Chase bound as recently as 2006. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers by team: *Joe Gibbs Racing* - 3 (Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch) *Hendrick Motorsports* - 3 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon) *Richard Childress Racing* - 3 (Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick) *Roush Fenway Racing* - 2 (Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle) *Gillett Evernham Motorsports* - 1 (Kasey Kahne) Right now, there’s just three drivers in the field who weren’t Chasers in 2007: Kahne, Biffle, and Earnhardt, Jr. And Kahne’s candidacy appears to be tenuous at best, as he’s holding the 12th and final slot in points by the skin of his teeth; should he lose out to 13th place David Ragan in the coming months, we’d have our first Chase rookie but lose the only car owner who wasn’t involved in the title hunt last year in the process. Read More »

Did You Notice? … How To Start And Park, Why Nationwide Is Dying, And Crew Chief Free Agency

Did You Notice? … How To Start And Park, Why Nationwide Is Dying, And Crew Chief Free Agency

*Did You Notice?* … All the talk about Nationwide Series teams looking to pull out of the series with the advent of the Car of Tomorrow? Well, it goes far beyond whether or not car owners will be able to afford the new car; frankly, the purse money for the series isn’t proving a justifiable reward for a struggling owner to stay involved. For proof of this growing problem, let’s go back to Talladega. Back then, everyone was applauding the effort of Morgan Shepherd, the perpetual start and parker in the Nationwide Series who chose to go the full distance, finishing a respectable 13th. However, Shepherd’s total winnings in that race were $20,775; that’s just $3,000 more than he would have made if he finished 43rd and parked it on the first lap. Read More »

Did You Notice? The CoT Doesn’t Equal Parity, Busch Can’t Contend For A Title … In Trucks, And More

Did You Notice? The CoT Doesn’t Equal Parity, Busch Can’t Contend For A Title … In Trucks, And More

*Did You Notice?* … That the gap between the “Big Four” in Cup Racing and the rest of the pack is getting wider than ever before? We say this stuff all the time, but I did a little research in the “off week” to take a look at the stats for the 2008 Cup season to date. What I found intrigued me: the multi-car teams of Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Joe Gibbs Racing – teams that have combined for 15 of the last 16 Cup championships – continue to dominate the landscape in ways we’ve never seen, even with the Car of Tomorrow. Let’s take a look at Top 5 finishes to date through 11 races this season: *2008 Top 5 Finishes Through Darlington* *Joe Gibbs Racing (3 teams)* -- 15 *Hendrick Motorsports (4 teams)* -- 12 *Roush Fenway Racing (5 teams)* -- 11 *Richard Childress Racing (3 teams)* -- 8 *TOTAL:* 46 of 55 possible Top 5 finishes this season (84%) Read More »