Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Mikey’s Tweet, Bruton’s Shades & Singing a Unique Command

This week’s race at Michigan didn’t give us much to talk about, but there were plenty of quotes, tweets and song ‘n’ dance routines to get the faithful fired up.

So let’s not waste any time. Give me a shout this week, and I’ll get you in next Thursday.

Q: I’m watching [the] race on TNT right now and TNT has not shown the debris that brought out a caution while they were in commercial with about 20 laps to go. They come back from commercial and the cars are hitting pit road; it’s obvious we’re under caution, but there is NO MENTION of why!!!! In fact, I’m just GUESSING it’s a debris caution, because there’s no wrecked cars on the track. WTH Matt!?!? — Jeff Ward, Columbia, S.C.

A: Boy, this was an interesting as-it-happened observational email, and this issue, along with the James/Sandler command (more on that later) has been the talk of the week. I honestly don’t know why TNT never told us why the race went to caution, Jeff, so I can’t answer that.

The hot potato that was thrust into the foreground happened hours later, though, when Michael Waltrip expressed his belief, via Twitter:


What’s wrong with that, Mikey? Well, that one of the most vocal and visible team owners in the sport, as well as one of its most recognizable television personalities, believes that the sanctioning body is justified in manipulating the outcome of a race is appalling. That NASCAR would do so is bad enough, but to hear a representative of the sport publicly support such actions speaks to a level of pandering I’ve not seen.

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Now, was there really debris on the track? That’s another question altogether. According to a few drivers there was, and according to a few others there was not. NASCAR President Mike Helton played the role of Switzerland, stating that the control tower will always err on the side of caution.

But I think race winner Denny Hamlin may have had the most telling quote of the weekend, one that exposes a reality we all wished was not true:

“I understand this is a show business,” Hamlin said. “No, I didn’t see any debris if that’s what you’re asking, but we typically get them every single week. I’m not going to say it’s accepted, but what can you do?”

What can you do? I guess we can all finally admit that, thanks to Waltrip’s peak behind the curtain, this really is just show business these days.

Q: Matt, call me petty, but I wasn’t a fan of Sandler and James’s command to start engines. I felt kind of like they were poking fun at us. Maybe it’s an overreaction, but I can do without the theatrics. — Rebecca H., Covington, Ky.

A: OK, Rebecca, I guess when the race is boring, we have to find something to complain about. Look, was it corny? Yeah, but we’re talking Adam Sandler and Kevin James here. You expected… what, exactly? It’s not like they went all Roseanne Barr on the National Anthem.

Q: Matt, if it is true that the Ford Mustang will come to Cup, will Ford’s NNS model change since they are rolling out the Mustang at Daytona? And is it true that the other manufacturers will bring pony cars to the Cup Series? Especially Chevy and the Camaro nameplate. And would Toyota, without a pony car, stick with the Camry?

I think I speak for a lot of NASCAR fans when I day we’d welcome racier-looking cars that resembled what you can drive on the street. Thanks. — Rachel Dyers

A: It looks like we’re heading that way, Rachel, and the new noses of the cars are being wind tunneled as we speak. The manufacturers have been troubled by the lack of identity that the original Car of Tomorrow provided — or failed to provide — since that fateful day in Bristol back in 2007.

Couple that with a fan reaction that has been close to mutinous and NASCAR finally had to cave to the wishes of its two biggest supporters. Of course, the sport won’t admit it was wrong by introducing the different-by-decal mounts, so we’ll have to live with what Cup Director John Darby told FOXSports.com:

“We have a new lower nose that the Cup garage will run in 2011 that’s a lot sexier than what we have now. It helps eliminate the metal rods, the splitter braces. It has a little more shape to it that will allow the manufacturers to, through the use of graphics, which they’ve been so successful with, to really make the Cup cars a lot nicer-looking in the front.”

“The spoiler and the long quarterpanels kind of fixed the backs. They look pretty normal now, or at least [like] what our fans are used to and that’s been well accepted. If we can bring that type of appeal to the front of the car, I think we’ll be OK.”

That’s about as close to an admission of wrongdoing as we’ll get. And while the safety aspects of the CoT are commendable, the body design can now officially be classified as a total flop. Thus, we should see Mustangs, Chargers, Impalas and Camrys in the Cup Series with somewhat identifiable characteristics in the next 2-3 years.

Whether Chevy ever comes to its collective senses and switches from my grandma’s Impala to my cool older brother’s Camaro remains to be seen. There’s a reason GM is in such bad shape, you know, and this Impala/Camaro thing highlights those reasons.

While I’m on a Chevy rant, allow me to publicly rue the day that I signed the papers on my lemon of a truck, a 2005 Z71 Chevy Colorado. I’m the one that needs bailing out after that purchase.

Q: What’s up with Bruton Smith’s glasses??? — Ben W., Wilmington, N.C.

A: They accentuate his unbuttoned collared shirt look.

Q: Matt, I’m saying Juan Pablo Montoya wins this week. He’s due and of course it is a road course. Before his win in ’08 at Sonoma, was Jamie McMurray the last driver to win in the [No.] 42 car? And did anyone win in the car between Kyle Petty and McMurray? I miss that Texaco paint job! Thanks! — Fletcher

A: First, for the housekeeping: Montoya’s win came in ’07, not ’08, but that’s not what you’re asking.

Petty won in the No. 42 — a number made famous by his grandfather Lee — on six occasions from 1990-95. Joe Nemechek then took the reins and won in the No. 42 in 1999 at Loudon, driving Felix Sabates’s old BellSouth Chevy. Sadly, after Kenny Irwin’s 17 races in the car in 2000, the number was shelved until McMurray drove the Texaco Havoline-sponsored Chip Ganassi Dodge from 2003-05.

The catch: McMurray did not win in the 42. He grabbed that unlikely Charlotte victory in his second career Cup start driving in relief of Sterling Marlin, who had a “broke neck,” in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge (that’s the paint scheme I miss, Fletcher).

Then came Casey Mears for a winless season (2006) before Montoya.

Long story short: Lee Petty, Jim Paschal, Richard Petty, Marvin Panch, Petty, Nemechek and Montoya have won in the number, in that order.

Thanks for sticking around until the end. I know I was a little tough on ol’ Mikey this week, so just to prove there’s no hard feelings, I give you one of my favorite clips from This Week in NASCAR for our video link of the week. I sure miss the show. Spank that monkey, Mikey.

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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