The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Paving Potholes, Danica's Dustup and Spec Cars by Bryan Davis Keith -- Monday October 22, 2012

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Five Points to Ponder: Paving Potholes, Danica's Dustup and Spec Cars

Bryan Davis Keith · Monday October 22, 2012


ONE: Shutdown for Repaves

Yes, it would pose an extreme economic hardship. Yes, it would require NASCAR to have a rotating schedule (shudder). But after watching the Midwest’s best impression of “Levigation 2005” render the Chase’s sixth race a never-ending train of blown tires, unassisted spin-outs and another fuel mileage race, I’d rather watch ISC’s facilities leave their racing surfaces alone until they crumble to powder than have them repave another oval. Goodyear’s tires were hard as rocks, yet they kept blowing out. Side-by-side racing caused spin-outs, the cars spun out by themselves, the yellow flags would not stop flying.

Yes, repaving nets us a much better racing surface, doesn’t it?

There’s two resolutions to the situation. One is what happened this weekend; Goodyear brought the hardest tire they could find, and the race was a 400-mile wreckfest. The other is to bring a standard race tire that’s actually capable of both wearing out and providing grip, as well as counting on the drivers throughout the field to conserve their tires over the course of a Cup event. The first choice produced a race that wasn’t worth the four hours it took to watch; the other has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually happening.

If the quality of the on-track product actually means something, Kansas Speedway never should have been on the schedule this fall. If Charlotte and Las Vegas have taught race fans and promoters anything, it’s that repaved intermediate ovals produce nothing but crash-filled events deprived of any side-by-side action. But, alas, ISC’s already bleeding red ink and someone’s got to make sure that new Kansas casino gets the support it needs from a 70,000 person crowd. Who cares if that means an unpopular playoff system plays host to another race that resembles the Demolition Derby at the state fairgrounds?

Brian France obviously doesn’t.

TWO: Danica Needs To Learn To Drive First

It’d be easy enough to post a YouTube clip of Danica Patrick destroying her race car trying to wreck Landon Cassill and insert a laugh track. Thank Mr. Cassill for providing such a valuable nugget of racing wisdom, provided below for your convenience in case you missed it.

”Rule number one of stock car racing: learn how to wreck someone without wrecking yourself.”

I’m not sure if that’s the number one rule of stock car racing, but there is something to be said about Danica’s driver development and her seeming cart before the horse mentality. And honestly, it’s not entirely her fault. Patrick has long been known for being temperamental on the track with a number of widely publicized spats in IndyCar before making the jump to NASCAR. And with her support network such as Tony Eury, Jr. busy running their mouth about her unbridled talent, allegedly being taken advantage of because she’s a woman, now every single interview with Patrick stems around her needing to stand up for herself, to establish herself as a presence in stock car racing.

Here’s the problem… she’s not a competitive stock car racer! Yes, stand up for yourself… when you’re racing for something other than a top 30! Even today’s brashest stock car drivers weren’t idiotic enough to play chrome horn during their development days. Anyone remember Kyle Busch bowling over folks when he made his first Cup starts running Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 84 car in the back of the field, or Brad Keselowski shoving competitors around driving in Keith Coleman Racing’s underfunded Nationwide car?

Patrick’s long been treated as an exceptional case, and it is really catching up. Instead of showing progress on-track and learning give-and-take that will get her through 400 and 500-mile races a year from now, instead she’s focused on getting a one-up on BK Racing.

For all her star power, the reality is that Patrick is slated to become a Cup driver next season. And in terms of racing knowledge and results, she’s about as ready for that jump as a Dario Franchitti or a Brent Sherman.

What do they have in common? They didn’t last long at this level.

THREE: It’s All About The Race Car

Let’s not for one second minimize Regan Smith’s effort as Dale Jr.’s relief driver and the seventh-place finish that he delivered for the No. 88 team. And it’s impossible to knock the job Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team did in recovering from their mid-race spin Sunday to rebuild the rear end of their car and deliver a top-10 finish, all the while maintaining a seven-point deficit with leader Brad Keselowski.

But there’s a sad side to their stories of success. Namely, they both also demonstrated just how much the race car matters in today’s stock car racing. One of the first things that drew me to stock car racing over other forms of motorsports was the ability of the driver to make a difference in NASCAR competition, whereas in Formula One a top-tier car isn’t going to finish worse than fourth unless something mechanically goes wrong. But look at what Hendrick Motorsports proved this weekend: a car with a demolished rear end finished top 10 and ran down Brad Keselowski. A relief driver in only his second race with the No. 88 team was a top-10 fixture, despite having next to no experience in a top-tier ride.

The point? Despite being stock car racing, it’s all about the race cars these days. Considering those cars don’t even resemble the commercial vehicle models they’re supposed to, NASCAR is all about spec competition.

If that’s not sad, I don’t know what is.

FOUR: Why Newman/Borland Could Work in 2013

Truth be told, it was time to dissolve the Tony Gibson/Ryan Newman partnership. It has produced several Chase berths and race wins for the No. 39 team, but the second car at Stewart-Haas Racing has never shaken that label with Gibson at the helm.

Finally, 2013 may be the year that Newman becomes the formidable presence many expected him to be when he announced his move to Stewart-Haas Racing in the summer of 2008, choosing to get behind the wheel of Hendrick-backed equipment. Ironically, it may well happen thanks to a reunion with his former crew chief at Penske Racing; one Matt Borland. That’s the same Borland who led the No. 12 team to the 2002 Rookie of the Year crown over Jimmie Johnson, then the 2003 Driver of the Year crown on the back of 11 poles and eight wins.

Rewind back to that 2003 season, then look at how Newman and Borland won all of the races they did. With the exception of the spring June race at Dover, the victories all came courtesy of two things; gambling on two-tire changes and stellar fuel mileage.

Is it really a stretch to see this duo being successful in today’s Cup racing?

FIVE: Chase vs. Regular Points… Dead Even

With four races to go in the 2012 season and a Chase reset in the books, Brad Keselowski leads second place Jimmie Johnson by seven points in the standings.

With three races to go in the 2012 season and no Chase reset in the books, Elliott Sadler leads second place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. by six points in the standings.

With three races to go in the 2012 season and no Chase reset in the books, Ty Dillon leads second place James Buescher by one point in the standings.

What’s the Chase needed for again?

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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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10/23/2012 12:48 AM

It will be interesting to see if the crowd decreases for the next Kansas race.

I really don’t know how much blame I can put on Goodyear when they are still dealing with this COT POS car on this repaved surface. It would have been so interesting if Nascar had signed with another tire maker to see how they would have handled the situation.

My guess is that GODaddy is not very happy seeing that car as the joke of racing. Danica needs to improve quickly or she might have to bare all to save her place in the limelight for a little longer.

10/23/2012 10:12 AM

Danica keeps saying she’s wrecking (or trying to wreck) other drivers to get “respect”. When does NASCAR say “Enough!”? If it was a Busch brother, he’d have to sit out for a race.

10/23/2012 12:29 PM

did you notice they ran about 6 laps before cars got strung out. thank france for 14 cautions to keep the race watchable. me cynical?? naaah.

did you notice the NEW car is a re-skin that still doesn’t look anything like it’s namesake? oh goodie i can’t wait, I’m sure it’ll make the racing better.

Did you notice that RN has momentary flashes of domination but like any other upper mid level cup driver fails to parlay that into any meaningful consistancy? i sense this trend will continue until Danica takes over his ride and he replaces some poor soul at front row or Finch.

Playoffs in autoracig????
you gotta be kidding me.

did you notice some words that can go together beginning with the letter D…

I first noticed her driving wildly at a plate track and gave here the benefit of the doubt.. ok she’s making aggressive moves that no one else is, i thought to myself. I wondered if her lack of experience enabled her to think outside the box, if she was crazy or just plain desperate since hardly anyone would voluntarily draft with her. It looked pretty dangerous to me but what do i know? i think she ended up wrecked… huh imagine that. i’ve also noticed that she sure does seem to often end up in a dust up with some driver running in equipment far inferior to hers in both cup and busch…er… nationwide.
Her latest escapade is how she wrecks herself trying to pay back someone who didn’t take kindly to her “driving like an idiot for 30th place?”
So will some one please tell me (and please quantify) what exactly she is bringing to the table to help the sport beside’s some sponsor dollars?

i think between her and wrecky stenhouse, if anyone is still watching, they’ll see some pretty agitated cup veterans next year.

10/23/2012 01:06 PM

babydufus, LOL, about Danica’s “dustups”. Yeah, she was famous for that crap in Indycar. In fact, more famous for being a prima donna than for any of her driving skills.

I laughed so hard when she wrecked herself trying to wreck Landon! Greg Z’s comment on the radio said it very well and then Landon’s followup was priceless.

It would be nice to have a female racer in NASCAR in good equipment with sponsorship that I could actually cheer for instead of one that acts like an entitled princess.

Eury Jr’s “support” sure didn’t help in any way, did it, other than make her think she was justified. Personally I’ve watched enough races that she’s been in (and she certainly gets coverage) to not have seen people trying to take “advantage” of her – more like Landon said – trying to get around her and/or away from her is more like it.
Agreed that the Kansas “race” was a terrible waste of time. Glad it was a nice day where I live – I worked outside and came in once in a while to catch up on the wreckfest.

The “new” racecar – ha! Will it fix the problems? I highly doubt it. Fox apparently thinks that NASCAR is worth a boatload of money to cover though – of course, they get the part of the season before the weather gets nice and there’s no football, so people are more likely to watch. I may start skiing again just so I have something else to do on weekends besides be bored by cars driving in circles — and I am a (former) die hard fan.

Carl D.
10/23/2012 02:20 PM

I was a bit surprised to find that Danica Patrick was 10th in points in the Nationwide series. Then I took a closer look. There are only 13 drivers, including Danica, that have run all 30 races and another two that have run 29 races. One of the drivers that has run 29 races is Joe Nemecheck who only trails Danica by 4 points. So, Danica sits 10th in points out of 13 drivers who have started all 30 races, and only 4 points ahead of the 11th place driver who has missed a race. Not very impressive.

Ron Schwalbe
10/23/2012 03:21 PM

Good old Danica, aka, “PRINCESS SPARKLE PONY” doing what she does best – - screwing up and blaming others – was a primadonna in Indy (withOUT her, Andretti WON) – she Does have SOME :driving” ability but, NO—“RACING” ability –

Ron Schwalbe
10/23/2012 03:25 PM

@Carl D VERY good point !!!

JD in NC
10/23/2012 04:21 PM

I would love to see Johanna and Danica swap cars for the rest of the season. I think Johanna would actually have a chance of winning, or at least getting a top five. The more I listen to Danica’s interviews and her in-car radio, the more I am convinced that she just plain doesn’t know what she is doing. I hear her spotter and crew chief giving her information that no one else gets. Kind of like listening to a driving instructor with a fifteen year old driver’s ed student. I think it would be great to see a woman be successful in the cup series…but Danica ain’t the one to do it.

10/23/2012 09:35 PM

Great comments. The worm has turned for Danicant.