The Frontstretch: Five Points: Ranting About Fines, Kyle's Win And Vickers' Vigor by Danny Peters -- Tuesday April 16, 2013

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ONE: Brad’s Rant Was Quite Something. So Was The Lack Of A Fine

Brad Keselowski didn’t bother to hide his emotions, or his opinion this past weekend.

One of the things I enjoy the most about our current champion is that he is not afraid to speak his mind, giving his honest opinion. It’s a quality you need in a driver who is very much the face of the sport right now and, as the champion, I think it’s even more the case that Brad should say what he thinks. But when I first heard Keselowski’s forthright comments Saturday night, my immediate thought was that his two minutes was going to cost around $50,000 – especially when compared to Denny Hamlin’s much milder comments after the Phoenix race which resulted in a $25,000 penalty for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

But on FOX Business News Monday morning, NASCAR head honcho Brian France confirmed that Brad would not be receiving a fine even though he noted, “I would certainly disagree with everything he said.” France went on to suggest that Keselowski was just blowing off steam.

Well, yes, to an extent that was the case. Keselowski was tangibly and openly frustrated, but it does seem to me to be another consistency – or rather a complete and utter lack of consistency – issue with NASCAR. I’m all in favor of “have at it” and letting the drivers give strong opinions, but if I was Denny Hamlin I’d be parking myself outside the NASCAR hauler at Kansas waiting on a check for the money he was fined. NASCAR needs to find a happy medium here because the inconsistency is making them look more than a little silly.

TWO: Another Solid Finish For The Sheriff

Since losing his full-time ride when Red Bull upped sticks and quit the sport at the end of 2011, Brian Vickers has run just eleven of the next 43 Cup races; a small sample size for a driver with 11 years and 266 races under his belt. In that time, with the honorable exception of an engine expiration before he completed a lap at Watkins Glen, Vickers has run extremely well with two top-5 results – a pair of fourth-place finishes – seven total top 10s and a worst run of 18th.

If you’re involved in any kind of Fantasy League for NASCAR, you’ll know just how useful he’s become in that regard. This Saturday night, driving the No. 11 car for an ailing Denny Hamlin, Vickers finished eighth but with that recent string of strong runs, he wanted more.

“It feels great. Honestly, I guess I’m pleased but not satisfied,” said Vickers post-race. “A top-10, we ran top-five a lot of the night for the first time with a new team — the whole FedEx team. Like I said, we’re pleased, but I wanted to win. I guess that’s what we’re here for.”

It’s that kind of attitude that serves Vickers so well as he looks to get himself back into a full-time Cup ride in 2014 – likely the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing vehicle. If and when this opportunity occurs, it will be a testament to the sort of character Vickers is. He never gave up, making the most of his chances when given, however few and far between. Good for him, I say.

THREE: Kyle Busch Wins — Which Means Nothing Until He Proves It In The Chase

After slogging through a terrible 2012 season, by his own high standards, Kyle Busch has roared back to regular form in 2013, winning two of the last three Cup races and picking up four dominant victories in six races at the Nationwide Series level: an impressive start, no question.

The nature of Busch’s awful form in 2012 was a point team owner Joe Gibbs was keen to address in the winner’s post-race press conference. “I think back to last year, at the end of the year, Kyle probably had some of the most bitter disappointments, I think, that’s happened to us in 22 years,” said Gibbs. “We missed the Chase.”

The last few words are the part that really matters. Now, in 2013 it’s all chocolate and flowers so far but the simple truth is none of this really matters until we hit the postseason the driver typically stumbles in – and we’re not there yet. Busch has qualified for the big dance on five previous occasions, even earning the top seed but has never made any kind of sustained run once he got there. To showcase he’s grown, Rowdy needs to prove he can be a factor right through until Homestead and until that’s the case, all the newfound maturity we’ve been hearing about doesn’t mean an awful lot.

FOUR: A Trip to the Heartland

A quick word about this weekend’s upcoming race: the first of two trips this season to the tri-oval, mile-and-a-half long Kansas Speedway. This will be the fifteenth top echelon Cup event at the cookie-cutter circuit, one that opened back in 2001 with a race won by Jeff Gordon, the second since the track was repaved and variable banking added following the early season race in 2012. Last October’s event was won by Matt Kenseth, his 24th and final win driving for Roush Fenway Racing. As often seems to be the case when “the robot” wins, the race was more memorable for a rash of blown tires and cautions – 14 in all – than the actual competition. There were only two on-track green flag passes for the lead, one of which came on the very first lap and the other during a mid-race wreck.

So, with passing likely to be at a premium, expect the restarts to be particularly aggressive: something we’ve seen a lot of this year already as drivers get the most they can from fresh rubber. Truth be told, I’m not expecting a great race on Sunday but the last time I said that this season was prior to Auto Club Speedway. Here’s hoping my pessimism is equally as wrong as it was before Fontana.

FIVE: SHR is Struggling

And finally this week, I wanted to mention the continued struggles of Stewart-Haas Racing. Collectively across the three drivers, SHR has one top 5, six top 10s, a paltry 29 total laps led and nine finishes lower than 28th. From an organization that has pretty much had success from day one as a fledgling team, this start is not the one that anyone expected or wanted.

Tony Stewart, as most of you are aware, tends to start the season slowly but these stats are sluggish even by his standards. Ryan Newman has a team best four top 10s while Danica Patrick, outside of Daytona (8th) and Martinsville (12th) has found the going extremely tough. With a fourth team – Kevin Harvick – in the works for next season, it’s clear that SHR need to re-find their collective mojo (and no, I’m not talking about Smoke’s erstwhile monkey). The good news is, with things the way they are right now, the only way is up.

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Steve K
04/16/2013 03:26 AM
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Kez never directly accused NASCAR of anything. He talked in generalities. There is an AP piece out there that makes you think he was talking about Hendrick Motorsports. How do you fine someone when you do not know exactly what he is talking about?

I think you are being unfair to Kyle Busch. The guy wins and wins a lot. The lack of success the last ten races of a contrived system do nothing to diminish how great a driver he is. Put Richmond and Bristol in the chase and he probably has a championship.

JP
04/16/2013 08:11 AM
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I wish ALL the media would go after Nascar on Hamlin’s fine and the lack of one for Brad K.

Understand…I don’t want either driver to get a fine.

I particularly wish FOX would do a legit story on it and be aggressive about it. But they, like most other media, are scared of Nascar. Scared of losing their access. Scared of rocking the boat.

It’s a shame.

Johnboy60
04/16/2013 11:38 AM
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Amen JP!!

Sammy
04/16/2013 11:58 AM
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Hmmm….looks like the Hendrick crew tipped off the Nascar Nazis. They were parked right next to Brad and Logano.

This should be interesting. I haven’t seen Brad back down from a spat yet.

GO GET ‘EM BRAD!!!!

Ken
04/16/2013 12:29 PM
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If there is any truth that the Hendrick crews snitched on the Penske teams, it says two things. One is that they were finally able to get back at Brad for calling out Hendrick at Michigan last August. Doesn’t Brad know that you never, ever speak out against the almighty Felon? Second, I think if I was Jimmie or Jeff, I would be very careful with anything I do, on the track AND in the garage. Brad, and to a lesser extent Joey, won’t take this lying down.

It reminds me of what happened back in 1990 at Richmond. Richard Childress and Dale Earnhadt went after the NASCAR inspectors and showed them a modified intake manifold on Mark Martin’s car after mark won the race at Richmond. When Dale won his 4th Championship. he and Childress were very proud of themselves for blowing the whistle on Roush and Martin. Neither Roush or Martin ever recovered from that penalty throughout the rest of Martin’s time at Roush, both in reputation and in preformance. That won’t happen with Brad and Penske. There will be revenge, if this is true. The next few races will be very interesting!

Lydia
04/16/2013 12:41 PM
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The rumor is Hendricks teams “ratted” on the Penske teams…boys have at it. If true..I gotta say what goes around comes around. Brad
does love to speak out … and
that’s all fine and well. While speaking out he
does like to “allude” to “other
teams” and what they might be up to. If that is the way Brad
wants to go about things…he’s GOT to understand it’s going to come back to him..and his team..possibly in spades. I’ll be honest I thought he went way overboard in his ranting Saturday night and was quite surprised NASCAR let it go. Brad better hope it was really all ok with NASCAR..and they’re not going to just sneak in the back door and add extra fines onto what possibly might be coming for the parts infraction.
As far as SHR goes…I am hoping big changes are coming..and soon. I can’t say having Addington for a crew chief has done Stewart any favors..he didn’t have a stellar season last year…so maybe a good look at his crew chief might be a starting point. It seems Earnhardt Jr got his mojo back with the Gen 6 car and Stewart has lost his….

Carl D.
04/16/2013 01:39 PM
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Kyle Busch is ALREADY a contender for 2013. He has two wins and his team seems to be clicking on all cylinders. It’s too early to assume that the #18 team will make the chase, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t.

My question is this… If Kyle stays competitive and makes the chase but comes up just short of winning the championship, is that a success or a failure? When it comes to judging Kyle Busch, can a successful season be anything short of a championship?

Steve
04/16/2013 01:43 PM
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Oh Brad will get fined. It will be added to his penalty coming this week, but Nascar will spin it as no fine to keep in the good graces of its fans.

Funny how the Hendrick boys whine about another team when they cheat the most out of any team in the garage. Of course when you have Rick as your owner and him in Nascars pocket, you can pretty much do anything you wish. Guess Hendrick isn’t going to take losing last years championship lying down.

Nate
04/16/2013 01:59 PM
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Man, it sure would be fun to see all the non-Hendrick teams just go and take out the 48 every race.

You gotta know there’s a lot of “want to” there.

Hey, we can dream can’t we? LOL.

jerseygirl
04/16/2013 02:04 PM
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Nate, I love that idea. Just make it look like an accident. Block them in their pit stall, make life difficult on the track.

Isn’t Brad the one that was complaining about the HMS cars being skewed in the rear last year? Maybe they just saw an opportunity to tattle on the Penske cars as payback.

midasmicah
04/16/2013 02:36 PM
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The Hendricks drivers already have a built in advantage with Hendricks and francy pants being butt buddies. Now you’ve got the old felons’ drivers snitching on other teams. And cheatin’ chad takes it all in with a smug smile. I came into this season with high hopes with the new gen 6 car, but the that’s disappearing with the Hendricks-France love fest. And I’m sure a lot of other fans feel the same way. And yes, Kyle Busch IS a title contender.

Old Fan Bill
04/16/2013 02:43 PM
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There is not much about the #55 being to low because of the shocks.Did MW get in trouble a few year a go about shocks,are was it the fact that they found some of Jack R. shocks in Mikeys pit area? Either way you want hear Speed/Fox talk much about this subject.
Good point JP.

Jerry
04/16/2013 04:20 PM
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Been a NASCAR fan since my first Daytona race as a 14 yr old … beach race 1959! With all the team members that change teams, all the teams know who is trying to cheat you can bet! If you sampled 100 races, then the % found cheating would be fairly uniform you can bet! Just remember, they are all racers!

DoninAjax
04/16/2013 08:14 PM
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The 48 team passed inspection so they must be legal. At least legal enough for Brian.

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