NASCAR Fan Q & A · Jess Nicholas · Wednesday July 19, 2006
Q: Tony Stewart is going to have to step on it if he wants to defend his title. It looked to me like Newman took him out, but you can't make excuses in this business…no one cares. Do you think the 20 team has what it takes to get in the Chase? Rob W.
A: I do, but, like you, I think Tony has to step it up a notch or two, and I don't think all his problems can be attributed to other drivers. Between the mechanical problems and a couple of bad qualifying efforts, the last few weeks have been unkind to this team. I think he's in better shape to make the Chase than three of the guys above him - Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - and about on par with Greg Biffle. I do think Tony has let the field catch up to him the last few weeks, however, and aside from the first Pocono race, which Denny Hamlin won, it looks like the problem has extended to his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing as well.
Q: I always thought Rusty Wallace was full of a bunch of sour grapes about Ryan Newman, but after listening to Tony Stewart last week, maybe ol' Rusty was right. Old Bob
A: Ryan Newman is a very talented driver, but I think a lot of his reputation is based on his qualifying prowess. I'm not sold on him as a frontline NASCAR driver; Tony Stewart sometimes pouts in interviews after he's been taken out of a race, but he was spot on with his comments about Newman and give-and-take.
Q: Who's more likely to make the Chase in your opinion: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Carl Edwards? They're my two favorite drivers! Lindsey Carlton
A: You're not going to like my answer, then: Neither. I thought Dale, Jr. was a lock until the last couple of weeks, but he's got cars behind him that are stronger week-to-week, and both Earnhardt and teammate Truex are struggling. As for Carl Edwards, Jack Roush has been trying so hard to fix Jamie McMurray's disaster of a year that I think he may have inadvertently sabotaged the No. 99 car by taking Bob Osborne away.
Q: If Elliott Sadler's gone to the 19 after this year, who replaces him? Do you think Yates will go after Jamie McMurray? Redlight
A: I think Jamie McMurray needs to worry about having any kind of job beyond this year, to be truthful. When he broke in with Ganassi and won in Sterling Marlin's car, I think we all might have underestimated just how good that particular car was that year. McMurray came close to the Chase a couple of times since, but Jeremy Mayfield actually made the Chase, and I don't think there's anyone that would say Mayfield is really one of Cup's 10 best drivers. McMurray may be in trouble; it's a good thing he's got the image factor working for him and can move his product. I'm eating a little crow here, too, because I've been really hard on Chip Ganassi's teams lately, and it might be that the No. 42 team was covering up McMurray's flaws.
Q: Jeremy Mayfield broke the cardinal rule of business - Thou shalt not embarrass the boss in public. I don't think he was off in his comments, but he sure paid for them. Where does he end up? MadMax
A: Maybe all the way out of Cup. It appears he's going to get an opportunity to run for Michael Waltrip Racing, but he'll be doing so without owner points for the first five races next year and he's not always the best qualifier. This one could get ugly, and if the Cup field gets overcrowded next year, that would be the first team on my list I expect to struggle.
Q: What is wrong with RYR? Who replaces Sadler and Jarrett? I hate to see an old team like that go down the tubes. John P.
A: I don't have an answer for why RYR as a whole is in trouble, other than to say some of the decisions made by Robert Yates (like firing Eddie D'Hondt) haven't made sense to me. As for replacement drivers, I think Ward Burton ends up in the 38 next year and rookie Stephen Leicht in the other car, whether they number it 88 or 90.
Think the driver shortage gives Dick Trickle a shot at a comeback with the 88 team? Want to nominate Stewart for the “Bonehead Move of the Month” award? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know how you feel…or give him a different comment or question, and you can be in this very space next week!
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