The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Kobalt Tools 400 by Amy Henderson -- Monday March 12, 2012

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The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Kobalt Tools 400

Amy Henderson · Monday March 12, 2012


Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H… the Big Six.

Ryan Newman’s got to be another Stewart-Haas Racing driver smiling this Monday, sneaking through to a fourth-place surge at the finish of Sunday’s race in Vegas.

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

The late-race focus might have been on Tony Stewart and his battle with Jimmie Johnson for the win, but Stewart has to be extra happy after this one since teammate Ryan Newman managed to quietly move through the late fracas and grab a fourth-place finish with his own Stewart-Haas Racing car. Newman flew in under the radar, weaving among the Roush Fenway triumvirate who had been fighting amongst themselves and stole the show – along with a top-5 finish in the process.

What… was THAT?

There are lots of ridiculous things in NASCAR, but this week, how about two of the Nationwide Series’ Most Popular Drivers facing sitting at home through lack of funding? It’s hard to figure what drives companies to get into the sport anymore, and even harder to figure why they choose the teams they back sometimes. Both Trevor Bayne and Kenny Wallace are winning drivers with large fan bases, yet both face the reality of sitting out because the sponsors just aren’t signing on the dotted line. Both are winners, and Wallace is a three-time NNS Most Popular Driver to boot. Wallace finished in the top 10 in points last year with an underfunded team, and Bayne battled back from Lyme Disease to win at Texas last fall… not to mention capturing a little race called the Daytona 500 somewhere along the line. While the economy is somewhat to blame, there are lesser teams and drivers with backing. That begs the question: what gives?

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Kasey Kahne had a fast machine all weekend, sitting on the pole for Sunday’s race, but the No. 5 was never quite good enough when it counted. Kahne never led a lap despite starting on point, plus, a late-race dust-up with Matt Kenseth while jockeying for position on the final restart cost Kahne some spots, relegating the newest member of the Hendrick Motorsports clan to a 19th-place finish. It’s the third “wreck” Kahne has been involved in this season, relegating him to well outside the top 20 in Sprint Cup points.

When…will I be loved?

For the third straight week, the electronic fuel injection system caused teams fits. This week, fuel pressure issues ruined Brad Keselowski’s and A.J. Allmendinger’s chances for a good finish, coming on the heels of Tony Stewart’s issues trying to restart the car under caution at Phoenix and several cars having pick-up issues at Daytona. Sure, bugs are to be expected with the new system, but NASCAR needs to be more proactive now that there are known issues. Part of the solution should be allowing the teams some test sessions. A multiple-day open test could easily be held at Charlotte, creating the least expense for the teams as most are located in the immediate vicinity, and Charlotte is a logical choice anyway as a high-speed intermediate. In addition, giving each owner one test session at any track would allow all teams some leeway to figure out major concerns. There is a known, recurrent issue… it’s NASCAR’s responsibility to help teams find the fix.

Why…was Las Vegas possibly the most important race so far in 2012?

With the Daytona 500 being the one points race where going all out for the win supersedes the points battle (not to mention a typical restrictor plate crapshoot), and Phoenix being a totally unique racetrack that teams will visit only one more time this year, it’s Las Vegas that gives the first real hint at which teams might have what it takes for a title. With the plethora of 1.5 to 2-mile speedways on the schedule, the way to the Chase is paved with good finishes on the intermediate tracks. In addition, these are the races that separate the teams who will run strong and stay in the coveted top 35 in owner points from those whose programs are still weak. It may be a cookie-cutter, but Vegas will give the first clues to how the cookies will crumble this year. Game on.

How…many tracks hasn’t Tony Stewart won at?

As of now… just two. Stewart enjoyed his first Las Vegas victory on Sunday, leaving unfinished business at just two of the tracks currently on the Sprint Cup schedule. One of those is Kentucky Speedway, which as hosted just one Cup race to date, but the other is a bit of a surprise. Despite being one of the most talented drivers in the sport, Stewart has yet to hoist a trophy in salute of the Lady in Black, Darlington Raceway. It’s a track that suits Stewart, and his aggressive driving style yet the three-time champion is 0-for-19 in his starts. It’s called the Track Too Tough to Tame… but it’s hard to believe that Stewart hasn’t been able to at least appease the Lady for one weekend. Stewart also never won an event at the then-North Carolina Speedway, but that track is no longer on the Sprint Cup schedule. That leaves Stewart and Jeff Gordon as the only two full-time drivers with no more than a pair of tracks left to conquer in their careers.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Carl D.
03/12/2012 07:53 AM

I have no idea why, but I think that at some point this year Kasey Kahne is going to go on a tear and win a few races. Obviously, that feeling isn’t based on his results to date. Still, we know that he and Kenny Francis are a potent team, and Kasey is probably in the best equipment he’s ever had. Once they start clicking, I think they will impress. I bet they make the chase.

MJR in Springfield, VA
03/12/2012 09:47 AM

“WHEN”…..will NA$CAR start listening to things that make sense. Well you’ve heard the little story about devils and ice water right? If NA$CAR didn’t think of it first, then it can’t be worth the time to consider it…face it…that’s the way they are.

03/12/2012 10:47 AM

You say that the Darlington Raceway suits Tony Stewart. I disagree. Stewart has never been comfortable running next to the wall, and that’s the only place you can run at Darlington, so I’m not surprised that Stewart has never truly been a factor there. It’s a lot like Lee Trevino at the Masters. He had the talent to win there, but his game never suited the golf course at Augusta National. The same applies to Stewart and Darlington. He has the talent, but the way you have to run that track doesn’t suit him. It’s said that there are horses for courses, but in Stewart’s case, the direct opposite is true when it comes to Darlington. And that’s why Stewart will, most likely, never win there.

03/12/2012 11:23 AM

@ Charles – Tony has won at Darlington – just not in a Cup car. He won a Nationwide race there in 2008.

billy jack
03/12/2012 01:50 PM

Great question to why companies choose certain teams & drivers. The ones that come to my mind are NAPA & AARONS. As long as they sponsor that particular owner I have no need to shop there. And now thanks to FOX pre-race addition of that owner (expert on what it takes to win! LOL) I have more time to spend outside on Sunday afternoon.( I prefer not to watch a MRW infomercial) What next? If he gets in the booth with his brother Daryl than I will be free on Sunday to go to the beach.

03/12/2012 02:46 PM

Connie, I was referring to Cup races, not Nationwide races against a much lower overall level of competition.

And my statement was more along the lines of the comfort level with the venue more than it does his ability to get it done there, and Stewart has never been comfortable at Darlington because you have to run against the wall, and Stewart has never been comfortable running close to the wall. He prefers the bottom of the track.

In fact, don’t be surprised if Kasey Kahne wins there this year, though I did not pick him to. That’s because Kahne likes the high line, and to succeed at Darlington, you have to be comfortable running next to the wall. Tony’s capable of winning there, it’s just that the track doesn’t suit him. Dale, Jr. would be a good choice, as well, but he’s too mistake-prone.

03/12/2012 06:11 PM

“When” – It is my understanding that some teams, RCR, EGR, TBR, and one driver from JGR tested at Nashville the week before Speedweeks to work on set-ups and test out the new EFI.

It would seem that being proactive is up to the teams, and their overall comfort level with the new system…

steve h
03/12/2012 07:07 PM

is anyone else getting as annoyed as i am with the Fox coverage this season? the commercials (all 3 of them) are played as if on continuous loop. i tried to keep track this last week of the amount of race coverage to commercial blather and it turns that we got to watch maybe 10 laps of racing and then we have to endure 6 – 8 laps of commercials. then when they go back to racing, there is usually some more damn commercial overlay on the screen. Nearly 45% of the entire broadcast was commercial advertising. thank God for my tivo, i doubt i will watch many more ‘live’ broadcasts.

03/12/2012 09:45 PM

EFI is the new COT.

Nascar just throws this on the teams and it’s up to them to figure it out during the season.

And, once again, the fans have to watch it ruin races.


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener

Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.