Race Weekend Central

Speeding Through Summer: Weekly NASCAR Fan Q&A Includes MWR, J.J., More

Finally, we are here. Gone is the hype and hoopla of the Super Bowl. Now, we’re staring face first into the motorsports giant and that Great American Race – the Daytona 500. But first, we have this week’s “preseason” warmup: the Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout. After an offseason filled mostly with stories about drivers’ (ahem … Danica) personal lives and some random bits about the Gen-6 cars, it’s been a mostly uneventful one compared to years past.

We’re back, however, and just as ready to hear those engines roar as the rest of you. New cars, new drivers in new places, and, as an added bonus, new rain delay technology! Mother Nature vs. Air Titan, Round 1. I can’t wait!

Now, on to this week’s questions:

*How do you think the new car will do on Saturday in pack racing?* _-Courtney_

Can you say “torn up sheet metal?” Look, I’m sure the Gen-6 car will live up to expectations — it _is_ a plate race, after all — but that doesn’t mean it will suddenly eliminate the good ol’ Daytona “Big One” we know and love. Because the tandem racing is gone, we’ll get back to those three, four, and five-wide packs that came to define restrictor plate racing for the better part of two decades.

Gen-6 looks badass on the track – but how will that translate on the track in the Daytona draft?

In other words, I think the car will do just fine. The drivers and fans alike will be happy, until said drivers and fans of those drivers wind up in the big wreck(s) that will inevitably happen. Then, the new car will suck and it will be all NASCAR’s fault. Again.

Until then, enjoy the race!

*How many races is Lowe’s going to be JJ’s primary sponsor? How many as secondary sponsor? Thanks, Summer!* _-Nan_

Lowe’s will be the primary sponsor for all but one-third of the season. Kobalt Tools has the rest. Many rumors have been going around about Lowe’s possibly dropping their primary sponsorship of Jimmie Johnson in 2014, though as of now they are nothing but rumors. However, this season is fully covered for the No. 48 team and they will likely be just as much a force to be reckoned with as before.

The thing is, it wouldn’t be wholly surprising for Lowe’s to finally scale back on their sponsorship. They’ve been through five consecutive championship seasons with Johnson, not to mention several very good years even before and after that. Their investment has likely more than paid off and, even with some signs pointing to an improving economy, many of NASCAR’s teams are still struggling. Perhaps Lowe’s feels like it’s time for a new chapter, a new investment… some sort of change in advertising strategy.

Lowe’s and their Kobalt Tools brand are going to be on the flanks of the No. 48 through 2013. Might they be looking elsewhere afterwards?

Then again, it could all just be a rumor and they’re planning on sticking with Johnson for a long time. Time will tell.

*Summer, do you expect MWR to have as much or even more success than last season?* _-Fred_

I’m hesitating to say yes because of that infamous second place curse we’ve seen for the past five or so years. As much as I claim to not believe in curses, there is something to be said about the statistics. Just look:

*Sprint Cup Points Results*
In 2007, Jeff Gordon finished second. Next year, he finished seventh.
In 2008, Carl Edwards finished second. Next year, he finished 11th.
In 2009, Mark Martin finished second. The next year, he finished 13th.
In 2010, Denny Hamlin finished second. The next year, he finished ninth.
In 2011, Carl Edwards again finished second. Last year, he finished 15th.

If Jeff Gordon is laughing, Clint Bowyer’s chances to put up the same numbers he did in 2012 probably should have him a bit concerned.

In order for Michael Waltrip Racing to get better, they would have to contend for the championship. I don’t see why they couldn’t, but it’s hard enough for teams to translate success from one year to the next. MWR has only just come into its own in the past few years. Is it really fair to expect them to be on par with Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing two years in a row when even those teams have had trouble doing so in the past?

It’s not impossible by any means for MWR to improve this season. But I also think it’s a safe bet to manage expectations for this organization before the year even starts.

*Got A Question For Summer? Connect With Her To Appear In This Column Next Week!*

“Contact Summer Bedgood”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/28526/

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