Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Underdogs at Talladega, and Who Retires Next?

Hi all, Clayton here filling in for Greg this week and what a weekend it was at Kansas Speedway! It was nice to see an exciting finish on a mile-and-a-half track again. No matter what side you are on, there is no doubt that the incident between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth certainly made the 2015 Hollywood Casino 400 a memorable one even if the race was tough to watch at times.

What is better than two drivers doing anything possible to win a race? That’s what both drivers tried to do. No matter how you view it. this is going to be an interesting next few weeks for Logano and an interesting race to say the least for Kenseth this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Can he pull off a victory? That remains to be seen. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another loose wheel during the race and was relegated to a 22nd-place finish. He’s going to need to pull off some of his Talladega magic to make the next round of the Chase as well. Should be a very exciting race at Talladega for sure.

Now let’s head to this week’s mailbox questions.

Q: Hi Greg, One of the things I love about Talladega is the fact that an extreme underdog can win on Sunday. What do you think the chances are that drivers like Bobby Labonte and Michael Waltrip can win on Sunday? Thanks. – George – Charleston, S.C.

A: Hi George and thanks for the question! I’m an old school guy so something feels right seeing names like Labonte and Waltrip on the entry list once again this weekend however, I wouldn’t expect too much from either driver.

Labonte is driving the No. 32 Ford this weekend for Go FAS Racing. The organization is a solo-car operation and being a small team without a teammate is tough for any team, even on a plate track. The team operates on a lower budget and can’t afford a lot of wrecked racecars, which usually means the team is conservative when it comes to strategy at the plate tracks. However, Labonte can give the team a solid run, which they need to gain additional owner points. That should be their goal this weekend.

Waltrip, on the other hand, is on a different agenda. He comes to these races wanting to win, and we’ve seen him show his plate-track skill even later on in his career. Waltrip is driving the No. 98 Toyota for Premium Motorsports this weekend with sponsorship from Maxwell House. However, don’t let the team name fool you. There’s no doubt it’s a Michael Waltrip Racing chassis and a TRD engine underneath the hood for Waltrip, which means the equipment is very strong. With that said, we’re still talking about a driver who is 52 years old and only runs on the plate tracks. It’s going to be a tall task for him as well.

However, an underdog name for you to watch is Landon Cassill. Cassill and his No. 40 team have shown speed on the plate tracks this year and word on the street is that the Hillman-Smith Racing team has built another fast hot-rod for Cassill this weekend.

Q: Hi Greg, With Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon recently announcing their retirement, my question is who do you think will be the next big-name driver to announce their retirement? Thanks. Sam – Sandusky, Ohio

A: Hi Sam, thanks for the question and it’s a good one. When you think about retirement you think about the age of the drivers and who is currently at the age 40 or above. That leaves Greg Biffle (45), Matt Kenseth (43), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (41) and Jimmie Johnson (40). I think one of those drivers will be the next big named driver to announce their retirement, with a possible exception, Danica Patrick.

I know, I know, Patrick is only 33 years old and recently signed a multi-year deal to continue driving the No. 10 car at Stewart-Haas Racing. Yet, she also hasn’t ruled out the fact that she wants to have a family someday. With that being the case, you can’t help but wonder how long her career will go on past this most recent contract at SHR.

Johnson recently signed a two-year extension at Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt and Kenseth each have multiple years left on their contract at their teams. Biffle has two years left on his deal but has recently said retirement is not on his radar.

To answer your question, I would have to say Biffle is my best guess. I think the marriage between Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing will come to an end after his latest contract. The team has Chris Buescher and Darrell Wallace Jr. waiting in the wings and I believe one of the two will eventually replace Biffle. That means Biffle may have to move elsewhere in coming years. With his age, there may not be a ton of opportunities for Biffle to go and be competitive. That may force him to retire before he really wants to.

About the author

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

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Bill B

Interesting George, what you like about Talladega is exactly why I hate it. Why not just pick a name out of the hat to determine the winner of each race? That way you could look forward to every race because an underdog could win every week.


I think Brian does that now and the hat only contains Hendrick drivers. They don’t have to worry about passing inspection. Maybe Jr.’s name was picked this time.


Well you know how I vote each week, I always hope that Gordon is the lucky recipient of whatever NASCAR largess is doled out.

Bill B

I guess you are including StewHaas in that hat because if you aren’t that’s a real hard argument to make for the last couple of years. The primary HMS cars haven’t been dominating above and beyond the top teams.

I’m with Gina though, if there is a hat by all means pick Gordon’s name.


“When you think about retirement you think about the age of the drivers and who is currently at the age 40 or above. That leaves Greg Biffle (45), Matt Kenseth (43), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (41) and Jimmie Johnson (40). I think one of those drivers will be the next big named driver to announce their retirement, with a possible exception, Danica Patrick.”

Not sure how, when you are mentioning retirement of drivers “at the age 40 or above”, how Patrick would even be a consideration The last half of the final sentence in the paragraph adds exactly zero to the conversation and in fact dilutes and distracts the reader from the pertinent and relevant information. More likely scenarios for Patrick are:

1) She’s 33 years old. She won’t even be Cup racing when she’s in her 40s. Add that to the list of certainties like the sun rising in the east.
2) Rather than retiring due to age, pregnancy is a more realistic scenario.
3) Ditto for Nature’s Bakery going bankrupt and SHR closing down her team. From a risk/reward perspective the deal is a stinker for N.B.
4) An additional concern is the specter of NASCAR “charters” in 2016 with the possibility a 3 car limit per team. Do you really want to dump Harvick in favor of Patrick (weigh the advantages/disadvantages of skill and success against notoriety and lackluster “performance”). The problem is only exacerbated in 2017 with the retirement of Stewart and the signing of Clint Bowyer.

And that, my friends, is your daily dose of Danica being referenced in an online story for no apparent reason.


Clarification regarding “charters”: “the current version of the plan requires a team to have been full-time since 2013”.

So, it’s not specifically a 3 car limit but the #4 entity is simply an example of a team that does not meet the requirements.


I think Father Time, or a Botox shortage will remove Danica from Nascar long before pregnancy will. Sponsors want a certain look you know.


good gracious…..now with stewart set to retire next year, will we hear every week speculation of which over 40 yr old driver be next to retire?

i mean gordon has a bad back from wrecks, stewart has messed up leg and it’s not fun for him to race cup any longer, who’s next denny hamlin with his injuries or kyle busch with his bad legs from the wreck this past february at daytona?

Carl D.

I don’t know about drivers, but I hope the next big-name Nascar retirement is Brian France.

Bill B

So do I but, unfortunately, hell will probably freeze over first.


NASCAR should be so lucky, but as Bill B said, hell will freeze over first. Unless he finally buys that football franchise and leaves. I can only wish.


Well Bill, picking a name out of a hat is pretty similar to how they determine the title these days, so why not?


Who retires next? Oh oh, I know this one. About 1.8 percent of the remaining TV audience. That’s it, I’m right aren’t I? What do I win?


You mean 1.8% per year do you not?


John Q, that is priceless!

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