Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Cleaning Out the Inbox & Bracing for Bristol

With March comes Madness, short-track season and spring cleaning – all of which kick off this week. And for me, the spring cleaning comes in the form of a few unanswered emails that have been rattling around my inbox from before Carl and Kes bogart’d all column space here on Thursdays.

Should be plenty to talk about by this time next week with Bristol reactions. And speaking of Bristol, here’s your weekly video link. This one is the coolest yet.

Q: Hi Matt. Victory Lane on SPEED brought up that crew chief Steve Addington has won a race with brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, and I wondered what other crew chiefs have done the same thing. They didn’t provide the answer, so I’m turning to you. Which crew chiefs have worked with brothers (or cousins, or father/son, or other family relationships) and which ones have won with both family members?

Thank you, – Kevin Lorentzen

A: Wow, this one took some research. And not the “I can’t find the info”-type research, either. This was the poring over stats kind. But that’s why I’m here – or so they tell me – and as anyone who’s read this column a handful of times knows, I’m a sucker for this type of stuff.

Let me say right off that this list is in no way complete. Crew chief info going back anywhere beyond, say, 1970 is sketchy at best and woefully incomplete (making this answer the same). And there are bound to be some oversights even among the modern-era guys. So now that I’ve covered my legal bases….

Surprisingly, the only crew chief beside Steve Addington to lead two family members to victory on the Cup circuit is Robin Pemberton (he of “Boys, have at it!” fame). I really thought there would be multiple crew chiefs to have done so, which makes me think Pemberton may not be the only one – just the only one I found.

Anyway, RP led KP and another RP – that’d be Kyle and Richard Petty – to three wins apiece. Richard’s came at Rockingham, Talladega and Charlotte in 1983 (wins No. 196, 197, and 198). Kyle’s run came in 1992 and ’93 while driving the Mello Yello Pontiac for Felix Sabates at Watkins Glen, Rockingham and Pocono.

If anyone has further information for me and Kevin, please post it below in the comments section. I’m sure there has to be at least one other on the list. In the meantime (and to prove that I actually did the research), here are some other crew chiefs that have been paired with brother or father/son combos along the way:

Leonard Wood (David and Larry Pearson), David Ifft (Benny and Phil Parsons), Bud Moore and Mario Rossi (Bobby and Donnie Allison), Mike Beam (Richard and Kyle again), Barry Dodson and Bill Wilburn (Rusty and Kenny Wallace), Tim Brewer (Terry and Bobby Labonte) and Frankie Stoddard (Jeff and Ward Burton).

Then there is the curious and confusing case of the Bodine brothers. Pat Tryson wrenched for Geoff and Todd; Doug Richert for Todd and Brett and, because he likes Yankees so much, Donnie Wingo for Geoff, Brett and Todd.

If I haven’t beaten you into a figure-four boredom submission yet, let me note that Bill and Ernie Elliott (and Dan, I suppose) teamed up to win 33 races and 38 poles in just over 300 starts in the old Coors Melling Thunderbird. And Kirk Shelmerdine not only led Dale Earnhardt to 44 wins and four titles, but also turned the wrench in 20 of Richard Childress’s 21 starts in 1981, including a fourth at Riverside. Dale and Richard were, after all, blood brothers.

Q: Matt, the TV folks continue to claim that Atlanta is the “fastest track on the circuit” but that doesn’t make any sense to me.

The cars reach faster speeds on the frontstretch at California and Pocono, correct? Doesn’t Bristol offer the fastest lap times? Shouldn’t they claim it’s the fastest 1.5-mile track, not the fastest in NASCAR? How do they make this claim? Average speed?

Thanks, – Ellen Hill, Newport News, Va.

A: In all honesty, Ellen, I don’t believe Atlanta’s “claim” to being the fastest track in NASCAR is official. It’s more of a marketing tool. However, a look at the numbers proves it’s a pretty accurate one.

I studied the qualifying speeds of all the tracks on the circuit since 1997, the year Atlanta was reconfigured and speeds accelerated like John Wall driving to the hoop. I looked at pole runs only, because that’s the one time a guy goes out and floors it, unobstructed with slower traffic, giving us the most accurate look at one lap, top-end speed. Except for the 2008 and ’09 seasons, when the Car of Tomorrow whoa’d ‘em down some at AMS, qualifying laps hovered in the 191–197 mph average lap range.

Texas Motor Speedway was the one unrestricted track that came close. Pole speeds there were in the 185–196 mph vicinity. Michigan, Charlotte and Auto Club, in that order, were next. And of course Talladega, with speeds anywhere from 186–198 mph, would be a candidate as well – but those averages were all over the board.

So yeah, I’d have to give Atlanta the nod, because while the cars can reach faster top-end speed on a straightaway at California or Pocono, the whole lap average is markedly higher in Dixie. And as for Bristol… yes, the lap times are quicker, but speeds aren’t even close (mid-120s). I can see where you’re coming from, though. And Bristol will always be the world’s fastest half-mile, so take comfort.

Q: Hello Matt. My question is about the Talladega test with the spoilers. Besides what was on Jayski, I haven’t heard much coverage. What did the crews and NASCAR learn about how the cars will handle, or did they learn anything? I wouldn’t think Talladega is the track to gather information on how the spoilers will change the overall handle of the cars. – Corby773

A: You’re right about that. This wasn’t so much a “spoiler” test as it was a “Talladega test avec spoilér.” And it appears NASCAR realized that because it spent as much time focusing on the restrictor plates and closing rates as it did on anything. Of course, the spoilers and the modifications made to the rear end of the bodies play a role in that as well, so what was learned was invaluable for events at the wild deuces in the deck that your buddy calls while you’re trying to play a serious game of poker: Daytona and Talladega.

The illustrious Tom Bowles commented on the goings on down in the Land of Cotton in his Did You Notice? column yesterday. You can read his thoughts – specifically with the plate situation, which is pretty interesting stuff – by clicking here.

The spoiler test to watch is the one in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. That’ll give both NASCAR and the teams some notes that can be applied to a number of tracks. Jeff Gordon talked with the media about that very test while in Talladega:

“The balance is really what we’re interested in — is how much the balance is going to change versus just overall grip. You know, if it plants the back of the car too much, we’re just out of tools to make the front of the car work in turn. But we’re kind of hoping that it actually helps the front of the car turn a little bit, too.”

“So I’m very anxious to get to Charlotte. This test is really what’s going to happen in the draft. You’re not going to find a lot about balance and those things, plus the spoiler is bigger on this car. When we get to Charlotte, I think, is when we’re going to find out what a spoiler really does in comparison to a wing.”

And with that, it’s on to Bristol folks. Enjoy the four greatest sports days of the calendar year.

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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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