Editor’s Note: Frontstretch is proud to introduce Jess Nicholas, the newest member of our staff! Check out his bio here and don’t hesitate to email him at the address at the bottom of this column with all your burning NASCAR questions!
Welcome to a new standing feature on The Frontstretch, our little slice of heaven for you readers who have a burning question, or just want to burn their least favorite driver at the stake because he got your own favorite loose and put him in the wall.
We don’t always claim to have all the answers, but we’ve got some of them and we’ll make the rest up with such ease that you probably won’t know the difference!
This week’s topics include Dodge’s dilemma after a Charger wins at Atlanta while one of its premier teams is still driving two-year-old equipment, the possibility of an impending tire war, and what team Kevin Harvick is going to call home in 2007.
Q: If the Dodge Charger is as bad as the Penske team claims, why did Kasey Kahne win at Atlanta so handily? What do you think Dodge needs to do to improve the Charger? Will the Charger/Intrepid controversy cause an irreparable rift in the Dodge camp? "" Hemi Lenny
A: The Charger isn’t bad, first of all. But it isn’t ideal, and everyone from NASCAR to Dodge and most of the fans know it. The car was designed with a higher spoiler in mind, only to have NASCAR change the rules "" and where Dodge made its biggest mistake was not anticipating that rule change, which wasn’t exactly a great secret at the time.
There are some tracks the Charger isn’t going to ever do well on in its current form, but consider this about Dodge’s struggles last year: Who was representing them? Petty Enterprises, Penske, Evernham and Ganassi. Petty’s whole operation has been in the dumps for years, and neither Kyle Petty nor Jeff Green were at the top of anyone’s must-hire driver lists. At Penske, you had Rusty Wallace in the twilight of his career and Ryan Newman, who hasn’t figured out that Cup races last more two laps on Friday afternoons. And they both still made the Chase. At Evernham, there was Kasey Kahne in a bad sophomore slump and Jeremy Mayfield, who made the Chase, but isn’t in the top echelon of drivers. As for Ganassi, that whole operation was dysfunctional in 2005 and things may not have changed much for the better in 2006. Then, you had teams like BAM and Bill Davis Racing, who were barely competitive then or now.
This year, Kahne is obviously better, Petty has hired Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch is at Penske and Ganassi "" well, let’s wait a few weeks. At least Casey Mears is doing better. The point is, at least three of the four teams have gotten better on the personnel end of things.
The Charger needs a little more layback in its front grille, but all this goes out the window when the Car Of Tomorrow comes online anyway. As for any rifts, Petty already gets engines from Evernham and Roger Penske isn’t one to make needless waves. They’ll be fine in the end.
Q: I heard last week that Kevin Harvick has until mid-April to decide whether he and RCR will stay together. Have you heard anything on where Harvick will go for 2007, and what are your thoughts on his performance this season? "" OldMan3Fan
A: Harvick isn’t going to be happy unless he’s the man in charge, which is evidenced by the way he’s expanded his Busch program. He also probably still has a bad taste in his mouth from last year, when RCR’s engines were substandard and he felt cheated out of the Chase.
Toyota is rumored to be putting together a very nice package for Harvick, who wants to eventually field teams in Trucks, Busch and Cup. It’s doubtful Chevy is going to match Toyota in that bidding war, and given that Toyota’s two main teams so far in 2007 figure to be Bill Davis Racing and Michael Waltrip, they’re under pressure to get a true top-flight driver to headline their program. Look for Harvick to be that guy.
As for his performance, he’s looking up at both Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton at the moment. Perhaps he needs to concentrate more on the task at hand instead of what’s going to happen to him next year.
Q: I recently saw that some Cup teams are testing with Hoosier tires that are designed to be similar to the Goodyears. Is this the first shot in Tire Wars II and if so, is that a good thing for the sport? – KingSnayk
A: It sure looks like a first shot, and if it does nothing else, it’s probably already made NASCAR and a lot of teams nervous. On the surface, a tire war is just good ol’ American capitalist competition. Under the surface, tire wars can lead to some very dark places. The first thing that usually happens is the company looking for an edge will change the compound to produce more favorable qualifying times, but that can lead to quicker wear in competition and more failures. I think it’s tricky ground, and NASCAR will have to be careful.
Q: As the newest columnist at Frontstretch.com, have you experienced any rookie hazing? "" Frat Boy Beau
A: Considering I drive a jet black Mitsubishi Starion, I never thought it would look good with an "8" spray-painted on both doors and "Budweiser" down the rear fenders, but it’s growing on me.
Have a question for Jess Nicholas, or some advice on how to get those 8s off his car without destroying the clearcoat? Email him at email@example.com.
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