The Frontstretch: Nationwide Superteams Have No One To Thank But Themselves After Indian Trick Bites at Texas by Bryan Davis Keith -- Friday April 15, 2011

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Nationwide Superteams Have No One To Thank But Themselves After Indian Trick Bites at Texas

Nuts for Nationwide · Bryan Davis Keith · Friday April 15, 2011


It’s perhaps fitting that as the Nationwide Series heads to Alabama to tackle the high banks of Talladega, one of the stories garnering attention from the series and its last outing has to do with something, well, Indian. After all, there’s no other circuit on NASCAR’s national touring slate that is rumored to be built on an Indian burial ground.

The story is the old “Indian trick,” which longtime series stalwart Means Racing was attempting to utilize in running the distance at Texas last weekend; that is, to take the less worn left front tire and put it on the right front of the car. Whether or not that tire swap was responsible, Chris Schendel and his No. 52 car were on highlight reels for days after cutting a tire in turn 1, pushing up the track and smack into the path of Kyle Busch, ending Busch’s shot at the win as he was running down race leader Carl Edwards. (For the record, kudos to Allen Bestwick for breaking this little tidbit…it’s not often you’ll see an ESPN staffer digging for such nuggets in the back of the garage.)

And while Kyle Busch was uncharacteristically subdued in dealing with the wreck that resulted from Schendel’s blown tire, the same could not be said for his fanbase. One of his more vocal fans went as far as to comment on a recent Frontstretch article that the No. 52 team’s actions merited a severe penalty, stating “suspension for the season or life would not be unreasonable.”

Funny…sounds resourceful more than anything else.

Maybe that’s a stretch. But it’s not a stretch to say that it sounds refreshing to hear that the Means operation is, even if with a bag of tricks, finding a way to turn laps and run the distance in Nationwide Series competition. After all, the longtime No. 52 team failed to complete any of the 10 starts they made in 2010, with nine of those outings ending less than 20 laps into the scheduled race distance. To put things in even more perspective, the team completed only 146 of 300 laps at Bristol last month before bowing out with overheating issues; those 146 completed laps surpassed the number of laps they completed in 10 Nationwide starts last year. Indian tricks or no Indian tricks, there’s not a negative spin out there to put on a small-time team turning more laps.

Brian Keselowski’s now-defunct Nationwide Series operation was among many using cost-saving measures to race that ultimately did increase chances for misfortune or poor performance on the race track (photo courtesy of the Hot Lap).

Besides, scraping by on worn out parts and rubber comes with the territory in today’s Nationwide Series. Specialty Racing lasted over two seasons only by racing motors with 1000+ miles on them. Brian Keselowski’s K-Automotive outfit last season described their thought process as “maybe this part can go one more race…for six races.” For teams without sponsorship, corners have to be cut when trying to keep up in a world of brand new race cars needing not only to be built but developed, motors whose expense can rival even those of a Cup program and tires that cost $1600 a set.

And for all those screaming foul, hell even those lamenting the fact that Kyle Busch was unable to challenge for another minor league trophy this past Friday in Fort Worth thanks to the misfortune of a backmarker, that comes with the territory of today’s Nationwide Series as well. For years, it’s been force fed down the throats of anyone that implies otherwise that having Cup drivers on the track with Nationwide prospects is a good thing, that development drivers and series regulars can’t help but benefit from having the greatest drivers in stock car racing deliver a royal ass-kicking week after week.

For this rationale to hold water though, there has to be a corollary. That being, those same star Cup drivers have to share the track with the rookies, the backmarkers, the have-nots. They must share the track with the youngster more likely to go over his head, the backmarker that’s 15 mph off the pace, the have-not that has to throw his left front tire on his right front just to keep going. Through fault that’s sometimes all their own, other times that of circumstance, these type of teams are the ones that suffer more misfortune than any other on the racetrack. Just like Friday’s incident involving Tim Schendel.

Friday’s incident was, in the most grounded terms, a racing incident and nothing more. But in a way, seeing Kyle Busch and the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut fall victim to an underfunded team’s troubles just trying to make laps was a case of true poetic justice. Here, the posterchild driver and program of today’s Nationwide Series, with scores of trophies and millions of sponsor dollars constantly fielding cars “a monkey could win in,” lost a strong chance to add to that trophy haul because of the limitations and struggles of not just Means Racing, but of a type of competitor and operation they’ve mercilessly beaten into submission the better part of the last decade. For all the crowds and attention their involvement [allegedly] have brought in to support the Nationwide Series as a whole, there’s no argument that the influx of big-budgeted Cup programs into NASCAR’s AAA has exponentially expanded the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

It’s true that Means Racing and the No. 52 team have never been rolling in resources, but the ability of a team such as theirs to court sponsor dollars needed to buy decent equipment, and, well, right side tires, in a still struggling economy is drastically impaired when they’re going against factory-backed superteams. Face it, it makes better business sense for a sponsor to jump on board the Kyle Busch/Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski “we need to win minor league races to keep our apparently insecure sense of confidence as race car drivers tour” than to give Tim Schendel some decent rubber.

But ultimately it’s the decision to continue pursuing these campaigns, both by the superteams and by drivers like Busch, Edwards, etc., that has ultimately created a back of the Nationwide garage so absolutely desolate in terms of resources that full-time race teams are resorting to the “Indian trick” less than a quarter of the way into the 2011 season.

Looking at it that way, even though there was no intent there, even though the Schendel episode was a freak accident and nothing more, it was awful satisfying to see a likely byproduct of the mess the big guns of the Nationwide Series have sown come back to bite them on Friday night. To see Kyle Busch (and for the love of God Busch fans out there don’t go screaming “Busch hatred,” it could have just as easily been Edwards or Keselowski, or even Joey Logano) lose a shot at victory thanks to a problem culture they’ve created and perpetuate weekly, was odd, unpredictable…and just.

Just isn’t exactly a word one expects to hear in racing very often. Gotta wonder what the voice Bobby Isaac heard has in store to top that one this weekend at Talladega.

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

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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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04/15/2011 01:52 AM


04/15/2011 07:43 AM

Though I think there was the usual Busch bashing in the article, the overall theme is spot on. I’ve been a proponent for eliminating Cup drivers from competing in Nationwide or NCTS. Eliminating Cup drivers from acquiring points for the Nationwide championship has done very little especially at tracks where both series run on the same weekend.

I don’t know what else could be done. Even if Cup drivers were removed, the big dollar teams would still have better equipment, the engines being the main thing. Maybe running spec engines so the various drivers and crews would all have the same HP and allow them to work on the handling and exhibit the drivers’ skills more?

Carl D.
04/15/2011 11:51 AM

Let me get this straight…. the only way Rowdy loses a Nationwide race is by divine intervention from ancient Indian spirits. I guess that’s plausible. Nothing else seems to be stopping him.

04/15/2011 01:02 PM

HAHA, Susan’s upset because her boy got taken out of a minor league race. Pretty comical.

Although I don’t think the Means team will be laughing. Kyle and his superteam will have another freshly painted car to go this weekend. Means may not.

And sorry, not buying the loss of sponsorships if Cup drivers were gone. Sponsorship would actually come back if the playing field were even. There would be more competition, different winners and sponsors will see its worth their while.

Attendance will also return. Attendance is terrible for NW races right now and you can beleive its not the economy.

But those of you, like Susan drinking Brian France’s Kool-Aid beleives the series is just great right now, because he told you the series would die if we didn’t have the Cup guys. If he actually watched a race, he might know what he’s talking about, but he doesn’t and his theory is a bunch of crap.

04/15/2011 02:12 PM

I for one would rather have Cup guys run in the Busch series every week and know that I had to beat them to race, then have someone like Mark Martin show up ONLY AT THE BIG MONEY RACES and take winnings only from the BIG MONEY purses.

A big part of the problem is the extremely small purse in this series approx. $75,000 to win and only $12,000 to start.

It will take Means Racing the better part of ALL YEAR to pay for the car they wrecked last week. So this series needs the BIG MONEY (Cup or Non Cup) drivers, but BIG MONEY TEAMS that can use this series for R&D and crew training. Because there is very little money to be made in this series.

04/15/2011 02:29 PM

I have a solution to the problem. Let’s make everyone happy. We let the Cup drivers race. Even gain points. But they’re not allowed to drive their Cup Team’s cars. They have to drive one of the Underfunded cars and get them sponsorship. For instance, Brad K. has to drive Brian K’s #92, with no help from Penske racing, and so on for other drivers and their respective makes. If the Cup guys want to run, make THEM run in substandard equipment and see how good they really are. Maybe even get some cash for those teams. And we let the Superteams develop their drivers, like this series is meant to do. If Kyle Busch wins in a Toyota held together by spit and bailing wire in NW. Then I will stop griping, because it will at least be interesting.

04/15/2011 10:51 PM

Why would anyone put a left tire on the right side? Left side tires are smaller in circumference to allow for stagger. With the same tire on both sides there is no stagger and the car will probably plow like a garbage truck, overheat the right front and blow. That’s tight, which means you see the wreck out the front windshield.

04/15/2011 11:09 PM

I think the guy for Means is Tim Schendel, but it no big deal.

Kyle said on WT that he wants a Nationwide team for 2012, but he will not run more than five races, because his stuff is so good at Gibbs. If he is willing to put his name out there, run the KBM stuff. Especially if Radcliff goes up to Cup with Hamlin, a good possibility.

How much different would the cars be if he has a deal similar to SHR in Cup with Hendrick? He would need to work up to it like KHI but he would have Toyota’s full support.

It is like the reverse Mark Martin, who stunk with his stuff in 1992, sold it to Roush for 1993 and did damage for 7-8 years.

At least he would bring some validity to driving practically full-time in the series, because that is his team.

NASCAR is trying its best to kill teams in Cup, so the fact that NW is going to hell is no surprise.

Gibbs and KHI are the only teams with full sponsorship all year in NW. Turner is spending his money for a number of races to keep four teams out there at times.

04/16/2011 12:03 AM

I’m confused. When did it change in the NW series to have so many CUP guys run it to make it viable?

I remember watching the Busch series in the 90’s with one or two CUP drivers in them. Ratings were good and the stands were full. Of course back then, the rising stars were forming. Jr, Kenseth, etal. How are the NW drivers ever going to get a chance to move up if there are CUP driver butt’s in the seats?

I agree that sponsors would come back if the field were more on an even keel. I also blame TV. They should to take the initiative by showing more of the Odd Wads, the actual racers of the NW series instead of the CUP drivers running up front.

Here’s a fun fact. Bobby Labonte is the only CUP champion who has won the Busch series championship. I wonder who breaks that record? My hope is no one.

I just saw Countray’s post as I was going to send this. Brilliant idea. Take a bow.