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Another week, another few hundred emails to sort through.
This week's mailbag covers a lot of ground, including a pretty decent joke and Casey Mears' win at Charlotte this past Sunday.
As usual, my answers (where warranted) are in italics. So think of this as an extension of your post-Memorial Day cookout and start feasting on these best delicacies of the week:
COCA-COLA 600 ("Casey at the bat" May 27, 2007)
After watching the Coca-Cola 600 and seeing the top five, I thought that was a nice change and the way racing should be. Then I read where Denny Hamlin and his crew chief opened their big mouths and said that this was a cheap win because it came down to fuel mileage. I don't think it was a cheap win, it was a smart win. The guys that finished in the top five held back, stayed out of trouble and were there at the end.
Can we please make Hamlin go away? I'm tired of his poor-sport attitude; blaming crew members and teammates and then calling someone else's win cheap is the markings of a spoiled brat to me, not a true driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and others also slipped because of fuel but I didn't hear or see any comments from them in this same line as Hamlin's.
I can't make Hamlin go away, as you request, Trey. Honestly, I like the kid and think he's got a long future ahead of him in the sport. But I am definitely surprised at some of Hamlin's comments and actions thus far this season, particularly after Darlington and this past Sunday at Charlotte. I can understand his frustration at things not going right, but you're right – and not the only one who has written in on the same subject – that Denny needs to act a bit mature when things don't go his way. If he doesn't watch it, people might start calling him NASCAR's biggest whiner instead of that label being applied to guys like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart or Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Why does it seem acceptable to cheer a wreck as bad as Jeff Gordon's at the Coca-Cola 600? That was a very hard hit and anybody (fan or not) should be ashamed for cheering at a terrible wreck.
It was so nice to see how the people at the Lowe's Motor Speedway cheered so loud and hard after Jeff Gordon crashed, even before they knew if he was hurt or not. It really keeps that perception of the stupid redneck NASCAR-loving Southerner alive for us Northerners. Thanks for representing Charlotte so well.
I totally agree with both of you, Travis and Barbara. Those aren't real race fans.
It's exciting to see Casey Mears get his first win. It was only a matter of time before it happened, as he has made steady progress every year he's been in Cup competition. The best part of his win was that his car was actually worthy of the win, unlike some races where a mid-pack car wins the race on fuel. Congratulations to Casey. Now with the Hendrick equipment and Darian Grubb as crew chief, I think we'll see him top-12 in points as early as next year.
First, let me say I'm always waiting for your column, as you seem to have a fairly unbiased opinion on the races that are run, not any particular driver. That said, I'm hoping you saw the same thing (or can review the tapes) on the lap 63 wreck at the Coca-Cola 600. While I truly enjoy DW, Mac and the rest of the Fox broadcasting team, they disgusted me on Sunday. I assumed they were watching the same replay that we were at home, yet they still insisted that Tony Raines wrecked Jeff Gordon to knock the "Rainbow Crybaby" out of the race. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The only reason Raines lost control of his car was because Gordon purposely ran in behind him to loosen Raines up so he could pass. Gordon does this often, in every race, similar to his former nemesis Dale Earnhardt Sr. If this would have happened to Tony Stewart, either Busch or even Little E, the announcers surely would've commented as such and placed the blame on the aggressive pass attempt. I'm grateful that Dover is Fox's last broadcast, as I can hope that ESPN, ABC and TNT aren't such Gordon cronies.
FOX seems to have been more inconsistent and also has made more mistakes on-air this season than it has in previous years. It was quite clear that Gordon tried to take the air off Raines' car, and the move backfired on him. While I'm glad to see Fox go for the season, I wouldn't hold my breath that ESPN/ABC or TNT will be much better. Then again, anything can be better than Fox's coverage. I never thought I'd say this, but in a way I miss NBC's NASCAR coverage because it helped us somewhat ignore how truly bad Fox can be.
Turning on the Charlotte Busch race on ESPN2 Saturday night, it was great to hear Ned Jarrett's voice. I thought I might be tuned to ESPN Classic and might hear Benny Parsons next, but when Dale Jarrett spoke instead, I had another reason to thank ESPN for their fine Busch coverage this year.
What a good idea, to pair Ned and Dale in the booth. I stayed tuned and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I couldn't agree more, Rick. It really was a treat to hear Gentleman Ned back on the air. I know he's enjoying retirement, but it sure would be nice to see him even on an occasional basis. You weren't the only reader who wrote in. Hopefully ESPN will listen and bring Ned back every now and then.
Jerry, did you hear the news that was going around at Lowe's Motor Speedway about Dale Earnhardt Jr.? If not, then I will tell you and the Junior fans. He signed a multimillion dollar contract with Michael Waltrip Racing. The reason: so he could have the weekends off.
That's actually pretty good, Robert. I'm willing to bet even Michael and Junior both would laugh at it, as well.
With the announcement that the COT will go full time next year, what effect do you think that will have on the Busch Series? The cars will be so different, will it deter Cup drivers from using the Busch race as an extended test/money grab? Right now, Carl Edwards will clinch the Busch title by August, which will make two years in a row the champ is a veteran Cup driver. Nine of the top 10 in Busch points are full-time Cup drivers, and the 10th is Regan Smith, a part-time Cup driver.
Is NASCAR concerned that the series created to be a AAA feeder series has become Cup-Lite and young drivers get no benefit from driving in it because they'll just get their brains beat in by veterans with better equipment?
I've been hearing various reports that the COT may become the primary chassis in the Busch circuit next season. That would be contrary to other reports that NASCAR is planning to introduce cars like the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro as the series' primary vehicles. With all that said, this would be a perfect time for NASCAR to put serious limits on the participation of Cup drivers in the junior circuit. But because fans like to see their Cup favorites racing on Saturday's in the under card races, I wouldn't hold your breath for any major changes when it comes to limiting Cup drivers.
You obviously haven't seen any stats, nor have most fans. Passing is actually up with the Car of Tomorrow and margin of victory down. The domination by Hendrick has been because of other teams failures for the most part. NASCAR fans need to open up their conservative pee-brained minds and realize the COT car is better racing.
In my very humble opinion, NASCAR's policy of two-line restarts is about the stupidest and most dangerous thing around. It is obvious that when you mix fast with the slow on a race track there will be problems. The faster cars get held up by the slower ones who are often laps down and have damage and handling problems, then driver frustration sets in. This is not good racing! NASCAR, go to a single-line restart with the leading car at the front and not on the outside of a car that can be many laps down and will more often than not interfere with the competition between the other lead cars. Jerry, how many wrecks have you seen over the years as a result of this?
Camano Island, Wash.
Far too many. You touch upon one of my biggest complaints about NASCAR racing. If you're going to have side-by-side restarts, have it be the lead car on the inside and the second-place car on the outside, much like we see when the race starts. I'd also advocate getting rid of the lucky dog. Cars should restart where they're at on the scoring pylon and not be given artificial help to allow them to get back on the lead lap, nor should they be a potential race-altering element if there's a resulting crash shortly after the green flag drops again. The fastest should rightfully be at the front, and the slowest – or mechanically injured – should be rightfully at the back where they belong.
You answered a question with the following excerpt: "Rick Hendrick is a man who values contracts and likes to keep his word in most cases." That is copied and pasted from your answer. Isn't Rick Hendrick the same man who pled guilty to mail fraud and bribery of Honda executives to get more inventory? Isn't he the same man who received a presidential pardon after making a rather large donation to Bill Clinton's library fund? So you really think that Rick Hendrick is a man of integrity? If I'm Casey Mears and Kyle Busch, I'm worried that my teams are gone and combined into one camp for Junior.
You're not the only reader who wrote in with similar sentiments, Jeff. I agree, Rick Hendrick made some major mistakes in the past. But I challenge you to find more than one or two people in the Nextel Cup garage who don't respect the man for his accomplishments on the race track and for building his organization from the ground up into the powerful monolith it is today. That's why almost everyone, including most reporters, refer to him not as Rick, but as Mr. Hendrick. It's out of respect. You don't see that kind of respect given to folks like Richard Childress, Teresa Earnhardt or even Joe Gibbs. Hendrick admitted his errors. I don't agree with what Hendrick did in the past, but we're all human and we all make mistakes. I would hate for someone to hold something against me that I did 10 years ago.
Concerning Michael Waltrip, why doesn't he ask his brother Darrell to drive the NAPA car for a few races? With DW being a past champion, wouldn't he have his six provisionals to use if he couldn't qualify on speed? This would at least get the sponsor's car in a few races, if nothing else.
Oh sure, that's what the Nextel Cup circus needs, another clown. Have you forgotten just how bad DW was in the waning stages of his Cup career? Sure, his status as past champion would get the No. 55 Toyota into six races, but which is worse: failing to qualify, or embarrassing yourself and sponsor by finishing last in every race?