The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Questions Answered After The Federated Auto Parts 400 by Amy Henderson -- Monday September 9, 2013

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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.

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

They had top-five finishes at Richmond, but does anyone know about that? Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard finished fourth and fifth, respectively, on Saturday, but since neither was in Chase contention, their runs were lost in much of the media shuffle, even though Menard was the race leader on the final restart (and got the short end of the stick on a NASCAR non-call that took away any chance he might have had to win on a two-tire strategy inside ten laps to go. McMurray got a brief mention in the middle of the broadcast but little else. It’s a shame that the actual race and the drivers in it were just a backdrop for the Chase’s overhyped, manufactured drama, because drivers like McMurray and Menard deserved better coverage.

What… was THAT?

Think Saturday’s broadcast was bad, with ESPN concentrating only on the Chase (and those ridiculous “if the race ended now” scenarios…um, it didn’t end then and wasn’t going to…), just wait until it starts. Sure, every once in a very long while, they mentioned a non-contender on Saturday, if they really had to for some reason, but all the talking heads wanted to talk about was the Chase. Yes, it’s important, but it wasn’t the only compelling storyline.

Fans whose favorite driver isn’t in the top 12 after this weekend need to hope their guy does something spectacular in the next ten races if they hope to see him on TV. And that’s a real problem within the sport. Fans are loyal to drivers not in the Chase. Sponsors pay good money to be on cars not in the Chase, and if they’re running well, those drivers deserve to be mentioned. It’s detrimental to the sport as a whole when three quarters of the field is an afterthought at best for a quarter of the season no matter how they perform. Why should a sponsor pay for 36 races if they’re only seen in 26? And if those teams running just outside the Chase field were to lose sponsorship, what are their chances of making the show next year? What potentially could happen in the next few years is the same teams make the Chase every year (even more than they usually do) because they’re the only ones with the funding to do so. Think fans are turned off now? Until the networks change this mentality, more and more are going to fall away.

Where…did the defending race winner wind up?

Clint Bowyer wound up embroiled in controversy after a late-race spin. Bowyer went around late in the race on his own…while Ryan Newman was leading, thereby locking Bowyer’s teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., out of the Chase if he won. Bowyer was already locked in, so it would certainly be easy enough to help a teammate.

NASCAR has said they’ll review the race, but even with some questionable audio, there’s no proof the spin was intentional, and without that, NASCAR should not be making any call other than to let it go. Imagine the precedent that would set? “No, we don’t have proof you did anything wrong, but we think you might have, so we’re taking away some points…” No bueno.

Oh yeah, and amid all the controversy, Bowyer finished two laps down in 25th.

When…will I be loved?

While Bowyer’s spin will be hard to make a call on unless someone ‘fesses up, NASCAR’s questionable call on the final restart overshadows that call because Carl Edwards’ jump is right there on tape for all to see. Richmond was Paul Menard’s race to lose on the final restart, and while with just two fresh tires, it’s questionable as to whether he could have held the lead for three laps, he never got the chance to find out. Edwards passed Menard, the race leader, before the start-finish line on the final restart and di not give the spot back, which is against NASCAR’s rules, but was not black-flagged for the jump and went on to win the race. Why NASCAR didn’t make the call is anyone’s guess, because Menard didn’t have an obvious problem and was in control of the start, but no matter the reason, Menard got the shaft on that non-call.

That’s the second time in two races that NASCAR has made a questionable call on a restart; they allowed what looked like a jump by Brad Keselowski to stand in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race as well. They got it right as recently as Dover in June, when they black flagged Jimmie Johnson for jumping the restart, so they certainly should know what constitutes a bad restart. Maybe the black flag got lost in the wash like that one odd sock? Hate it when that happens…

Why…worry now?

Was The Spin on purpose? Hard to tell (NASCAR’s looking into it, but without solid proof, well, it’s likely that NASCAR would change the Chase field or race outcome at this point), but after Clint Bowyer turned in the closing laps, it changed the Chase picture completely…and Martin Truex, Jr. was able to squeeze into the field…something that would not have happened if then-leader Ryan Newman had gone on to win. That Bowyer went around after his team asked if his arms were tired—an odd question to say the least—just adds fuel to the speculation; was that a code to be used in just that situation? Either way, Truex is in, Newman is out. Others who will watch the Chase unfold without them include four-time champion Jeff Gordon and reigning champion Brad Keselowski.

So, who should we all be watching as the Chase begins next week. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Carl Edwards should have gone in as the point leader, a position he earned in Richmond , but he goes in fifth and so will have to beat a lot of people every week to win. Jimmie Johnson has been terrible for a month and a half, and the No. 48 looks like anything but a championship caliber team right now. Will Joe Gibbs Racing really focus on two contenders or will one, most likely Kyle Busch, be the focus in hopes of bringing home the title? The contenders will change a bit as the first few races of the Chase run, but if you’re looking for real contenders right now, take a peek at Kyle Busch (if he can keep it together in the Chase, something he’s never been able to do), Kevin Harvick (if Richard Childress Racing remains focused on a title despite Harvick’s impending departure), and maybe Kenseth, (if he’s at the top of JGR’s “to-do” list).

How…did the little guys do?

JTG-Daugherty Racing; AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Bush’s Beans Toyota): With a third straight top 15 finish (15th at Richmond) is this team finally turning it around? They were best in class last year as Bobby Labonte was ahead of all other small-team drivers in driver points. They won’t get there this year; they’re well behind Germain Racing in owner points and had two different drivers, but they could stand to take a step forward if they continue to run well. They’ve been rumored to have a new major technical alliance in the works for next year as well…could they be the next team to climb out of the small team ranks as Furniture Row did this year?
Front Row Motorsports; David Ragan & Josh Wise & David Gilliland (No. 34 Farm Rich Ford & No. 35 The Pete Store Ford & No. 38 Jong John Silver’s Ford): While David Ragan has gained a little momentum of late, this week it was David Gilliland carrying the torch for FRM at Richmond with his 23rd-place run, good for second among the small teams as well. He beat his season average finish by more than three spots as well. Ragan came home 29th after some missing lugnuts forced a return trip to pit road three-quarters of the way through the race, but he can take pride in a small point…Jimmie Johnson was lamenting that he couldn’t outrun him late in the race. Wise parked early.
Germain Racing; Casey Mears (No. 13 GEICO Ford): After qualifying 25th, the No. 13 fell back rapidly as Mears and Co. fought handling issues. At one point, their Ford was handling so badly late they thought something was broken. They did start to turn things around as the race went on and recovered to finish 26th, but this team should be doing better on the return trips to race tracks. They’ve lost a step since spring.
BK Racing; David Reutimann & Travis Kvapil (No. 83 & 93 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyotas): This team had a difficult night at Richmond, with Kvapil coming home 28th and Reutimann 32nd. And as Silly Season is in full swing, could there be changes in store for 2014 after a subpar 2013? Both drivers’ contracts are up after this season, so a change wouldn’t come as a surprise. While the problem may or may not be in the drivers’ seats here, this team should be performing better than they are.
Tommy Baldwin Racing; Dave Blaney & J.J. Yeley(No 7 Chevy & No. 36 United Mining Equipment Chevy): Here’s another team that may need to make some changes somewhere for 2014. They’re not improving, and could only muster a 31st-place finish for Blaney this week to go with Yeley’s 36th-place result. Yes, they’re running at the end of more races than a year ago, and that in itself is a step up. But they need to take another step if they hope to find long-term stability in the sport.
Circle Sport Racing; Tony Raines & Landon Cassill (No. 33 Little Joe’s Autos Chevy & No. 40 CRC Brakleen Chevrolet): Their finishes (Raines 33rd and Cassill 34th) weren’t good, but at least the two cars were consistent with each other, and that gives them a starting point for improvement. This team is doing just about everything right, but they have to do it with so much less than most that the race results don’t reflect what’s going on behind the scenes.
Phoenix Racing; Ryan Truex (No. 51 Seawatch Chevy): Truex finished five laps down in 35th spot. The team has shown they’re capable of more, and Truex is talented, but he lacks experience—he’s never run a full season in any NASCAR national touring series—and that probably hurt his chances more than anything else as this team’s cars are capable of better finishes. The team is preparing for the shift from James Finch’s leadership to new owner Harry Scott, Jr. and driver Justin Allgaier, so they’ve got the future on their minds as they finish out 2013…but it’s important to finish strong and grab some momentum for their rookie driver next year.
FAS Lane Racing; Ken Schrader (No. 32 Federated Auto Parts Ford): This team continues to falter, with Schrader limping home seven laps down in 37th spot. That’s better than they started, but this team needs someone other than two veterans long past their primes and a youngster not ready for this level if they hope to survive long term.
Swan Racing; David Stremme (No. 30 Swan Energy/Lean 1 Toyota): With the news that Stremme will be out of the car effective immediately after Richmond, Stremme looked like he was trying to give the team one more strong finish (after all, what better way to make a statement than to show them up), but he got caught in the wrong place in a three-wide battle and spun. He wound up nine laps off the pace in 38th. The hot rumor is that this team will become a Richard Childress satellite team with Jeff Burton in the seat next year. If they get support at the level that Furniture Row Racing has this year, they instantly take a big step forward for next year.
NEMCO Motorsports; Joe Nemechek (No. 87 AMFMEnergy.com Toyota): Nemechek finished the race, but that’s about the only positive his self-owned team will find in Saturday’s result. The No. 87 was far off the pace, finishing 39th, 12 laps off the leader’s pace. Is it time for Front Row Joe to hang ‘em up?

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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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Ken
09/09/2013 07:43 AM
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The 48 team doesn’t look like a contender? Don’t be fooled! The 48 team has been experimenting. And why not? They had already secured their spot in the chase, so why not try different things. Failures? More like smoke-and-mirrors to fool the competition into a false sense of security. Let’s see what happens at Chicagoland.

As for this Bowyer spinning controversy, think about this. I suggest you find a copy of a book called “Arrogance And Accords”. It’s about a big scandal involving American Honda executives and their dealers. This was the one Rick Hendrick literally got away with major crime. Toyota is a Japanese based company. Companies over there have been known as a hot bed of corruption, and what happened at Honda bears evidence to this. And that corruption filtered its way across the Pacific Ocean. Given that, would Toyota have had anything to do with this garbage? Toyota pain “The Brainless One” $93-milloin dollars to be part of his rolling circus. Michael Waltrip is Toyota’s biggest shill. He’s also NASCAR’s biggest suck-up. Put two and two together and you get a spinning rat who will get away with it!

About that last restart that has everyone’s shorts in a knot. If you look at the replay, this brings in that dreaded restart box that gets highlighted so often by the commentators. The replay clearly shows Menard was leading after they passed that box. It also clearly shows Menard going slightly sideways and hitting the side of Edwards’ car about half-way between that box and the start/finish line. To me, it looked like Menard spun his tires and started to lose it. and on, I am not defending Edwards because I’m a fan of his. It just looks like Menard slipped and Edwards bit. And how is one driver supposed to see if the other driver does spin his tires when he’s beside him? Behind him? Yes! But not beside him. The only way to alleviate this restart confusion is to do away with that dumb box. And I’m surprized they haven’t after one of NASCAR’s chosen ones (whose initials are J.J.) whined about back at Dover.

Bill B
09/09/2013 08:36 AM
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Get rid of the chase and the double file restarts and the potential for these recurring controversies would go away.
Why set rules up which are impossible to enforce without arbitrary judgement?

Michael in SoCal
09/09/2013 11:27 AM
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Flag man starts the race, first drivers past the line is the leader. Easy right? Except not in Nascar…

Upstate24fan
09/09/2013 01:00 PM
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The proof on MWR might not be absolute, but I think there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the 15 audio, what Dale Jr. saw on track, the radio to the 55 car after the caution, the timing and scoring on the final restart of the 15 and 55, and the comments post-race by Michael Walrip to Truex. That should be enough for NASCAR to bring the hammer down.

paltex
09/09/2013 01:30 PM
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The spin! If someone thinks it happen by accident, I need to sell
them some swamp land.
Nothing will happen to change anything but all
those who participated
in this scam are shameful.

Brian
09/09/2013 02:06 PM
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One thing to remember though is that the 39 car could have changed 2 tires like others did and been in the lead making the spin irrelevant. It was the call of the team that changed the outcome. Johnson did not hit the wall very hard and the caution may not have come out. Look who was already on pit road versus who wasn’t. Did the 48 hit the wall on purpose to help Gordon?

Erin D
09/09/2013 02:28 PM
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RE: RESTART.. BOTH Carl’s and Paul’s remarks indicate Menard (on old L-side tires) bumped the 99 and spun the tires.DOES THAT SOUND LIKE CONTROL TO YOU??? Menard didn’t cry foul and he would know. So why are you? It was VERY different on Friday’s restart. The jump was obvious, the victim cried foul and anyone who saw it agrees. RE: Bowyer’s spin… I wouldn’t want to be the NASCAR detectives on this one. The radio traffic is perplexing BUT to say Bowyer looked at the scoring pylon and decided to affect the outcome, PLEASE… at those speeds, it’s a blur. That’s why we hear guys on the radio asking questions of their spotters & crew chief. Again, the radio traffic is perplexing but having paid for the radio & driver frequency lists when attending races, you hear some crazy stuff on those radios. Who knows what happened there, I guess we’ll find out soon.

kb
09/09/2013 02:50 PM
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We see manipulation every race, was this intentional, who knows. If it is, it was a bull in a china shop not the usual low key but albeit manipulation. The people who are supposed to be in “The Chase” are. The Chase is bad for the sport. So much money is on the line with sponsor, you better get your mug in The Chase cause once it starts and you aren’t in it..you will never see your advertising dollars at work because TV refuses to acknowledge the other drivers, oh don’t get me started on that damn Chase….

Earner
09/09/2013 03:15 PM
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It’s sad that we won’t be seeing any one who’s not in the chase for the next 10 races (that drop fans) It’s sad that an illegal restart wins it(fix is in) & It’s So Sad that team mwr & toyota can team up with bowyer to eliminate other drivers & get theres in (more fans gone) & It’s Really sad that the“Chase” will start on the dullest of dull D’s(the rest of the fans gone)If I was Ryan race 1 of the chase would be Clint in the wall so his “chase” is damaged & on week 2 Perhaps Truex has a mishap (repaet cycle till their done in the “chase”

Nick
09/09/2013 04:41 PM
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If you even watched or paid any attention to the race whatsoever you would know that Joe Nemechek was absolutely flying on the track on 3 separate occasions after pitting for fresh tires. Passing Jimmie Johnson TWICE on the same green flag run, the leader once, and pretty much the whole rest of the field. Allen Bestwick even mentioned this on the telecast.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

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