Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: NASCAR Fans Throwing More TLC at TRG

Did you enjoy your off week? I hope so, because by my math we’ve got 13 straight weekends on tap starting with Phoenix Saturday night. Again, I sometimes wonder if a monkey and some ping pong balls are the driving force behind this jacked up schedule.

However… I’m not here to bring you all down with NASCAR negativity, so let’s get moving. Questions, answers and donations welcome.

Q: Hello Matt. I’d like to first say that the discussions on the Mirror Driving column every week are awesome. The discussion is frank and pulls no punches. As a race fan who reads many online columns, I can say that is what we’re looking for out here!

I wanted to comment on the topic covered in Mirror Driving this week of Joe Nemechek in the Nationwide race. After his car flipped and NASCAR examined it, I think they did the right thing in parking him. I don’t believe this was a life or death situation, but safety is safety.

The debris that could have come off the car was my major concern. Had a leader run over that and it cost them the race (or bodily injury from the resulting wreck) we’d all be second guessing NASCAR for a different reason today. Let’s remember that safety should be the top priority at all times, even if this sport is “inherently dangerous,” to borrow a phrase.

Kudos to NASCAR for making the right call. Thanks, and thanks to Frontstretch for the great work! – Brenda Lauthern

A: Excellent email, Brenda. And I agree with you when you say the Mirror Driving feature is a can’t-miss attraction. Whether they agree or not, the participants give us varying and unsanitized views to topics some sites won’t touch.

I also agree with your opinion that NASCAR is 100% correct in its ruling to park Nemechek at the end of the Pepsi 300. As cool as it would have been to see him finish – and it would have been cool – the risks outweigh the rewards. Debris coming off the car was my No. 1 concern as well. Had a piece fallen off while Joe limped along – struggling to maintain minimum speed in a pointless effort to continue – and then affected a lead-lap car’s effort, the coolness factor would have faded right quick. After all, aren’t we always bitching about letting damaged, non-competitive cars back out onto the track that have no business there?

See also
Fan's View: Classy Joe Nemechek Proves Winning Isn't Everything

And in the highly, highly unlikely event that a wreck in that situation had ended up causing fatal harm to any driver, the sanctioning body would have been taken to the woodshed by fans, race media and, worst of all, the mainstream media. Yes, the mainstream guys ‘n’ gals hardly notice the circuit exists until they get their hands on a story they can absolutely tee off on. Had something like that happened, it would’ve been open season on the sport and everyone – yes, even the people on this site who disagreed with NASCAR’s call – would be unloading the Winchesters at the control tower like it was the first day of deer season.

Sometimes we don’t say it when we should: Good job, NASCAR.

Q: Can you please clear up something for me? Since the No. 8 team is shut down, I wonder why NASCAR would not have asked or told Teresa [Earnhardt] to let the number follow Dale Jr. If NASCAR owns the numbers, what’s to stop them from making that call. Now there is another great car number that won’t be on the track, and a lot of us feel that it should still be with Dale Earnhardt Jr. That number will always be identified with him. – Danny Wade

A: OK, while it’s true that NASCAR technically owns each car number, it is not in the habit of making teams/owners switch or give them away. NASCAR has traditionally been accommodating – heck, even flexible, a trait we rarely see out of it – when owners request number sells, number swaps, etc.

So no, Danny, NASCAR would not have intervened unless the principles from DEI and Hendrick Motorsports had requested it do so. And NASCAR certainly would not have given Earnhardt Jr. carte blanche over his choice of a number – regardless of which it was.

See also
Thompson in Turn 5: Old Controversies, the No. 8 and Aric Almirola are Shelved

Here’s the good news: I think you’ll see the Nos. 8 and 28 back on the circuit within the next season or two once sponsorship materializes.

Q: Hey Matt. We’re going to the Phoenix race this week, and I want to get some scanner frequencies. Could you tell me the channels for Tony Stewart, Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Thanks for any help you may provide! – Jay in Scottsdale

A: Sure. Stewart’s channel is 464.6375; Junior is 462.0625; Harvick is 469.0125; and Hamlin is 467.4750. And for good measure, the radio broadcast frequency is channel 454.0000 (trust me, that’s a good one to have).

There is an updated scanner page on Jayski’s site. You can also run by the Racing Electronics hauler on the speedway grounds and pick up a sheet with everyone’s primary and secondary frequencies.

Q: Concerning David Gilliland [from last week’s column], who exactly is TRG Motorsports? What’s their background, who owns it and where did they come from? I’m impressed with what they’ve done with so little. I’d love to see one of the new low-budget teams find success. – Paul Mincey

A: David and the boys have been getting a lot of love here in the Flame Pit over the last week. And it’s good to see a group that’s doing it the right way get a little pub.

“TRG” stands for The Racer’s Group. It is a company founded by Kevin Buckler and his wife, Debra, that raced in various sports car series starting (professionally) in the early ’90s while supplying performance parts to race teams. As the decade turned, TRG would enjoy tremendous success, scoring wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans (among others) while earning numerous series and class titles.

Buckler made the jump to what was then the Craftsman Truck Series in 2008 with a two-truck team (Nos. 7 and 71 Chevrolets) that scored a win with driver Donny Lia at Mansfield in its maiden season. JR Fitzpatrick is manning the No. 7 CWTS ride with Butch Hylton calling the shots in 2009; the duo began with a fourth-place showing at Daytona in February.

On the Cup side of things, this is a team that’s looking to get in while the gettins’ good. While the operation is run on a relative shoestring budget (that big, blue, blank hood is all too familiar, although I do like the oversized day-glow yellow numbers), they’ve made the most of what’s been afforded to them so far.

Buckler, Gilliland (picked up off the scrap heap from Yates) and crew chief Slugger Labbe now find themselves 36th in the owner points heading to Texas, going all Rocky vs. Apollo against the famed No. 20 Home Depot Toyota ahead of them for a locked-in qualifying spot. The team’s that close despite missing the Daytona 500 in what amounted to their Sprint Cup “debut.”

Seriously, this is a team that’s doing it right. It isn’t some investment group from a big city in the Northeast looking only to turn a profit, and Buckler isn’t some slick businessman cashing in on a name and a brand that someone else created. This is a bunch of honest–to-God racers that have it in their blood – and know what a good bologna sandwich tastes like. These are the type of underdogs that are easy to get behind.

“The Racers Group” indeed. Good luck, ya’ll.

That’s it for me. I have a feeling the crappie bite is a good one. Lake Barkley, here I come.

About the author

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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