NASCAR Fans Speak Out · Jess Nicholas · Wednesday August 2, 2006
Q: I guess Silly Season is here early this year. This is really getting old to me, because with so much turnover every year I can't get used to seeing drivers in certain cars and knowing who's where. I still see the 41 and think it's Casey Mears. Reed Sorensen looks like somebody's pool boy. De La Zoom
A: Welcome to 21st-century NASCAR. The pressure to win and keep sponsors happy is so great that drivers are looking more and more to teams that can give them the advantage they feel they need, and owners with an underperforming driver will be extremely quick with the hook - too quick in many cases, in my opinion. Unfortunately, like many other changes in our sport, it is inevitable and won't be going back to what it once was anytime soon.
Q: What is Yates' problem with Ward Burton? Just hire the guy! He's a better driver than Dale Jarrett and probably better than Sadler, too. But they're going to go with this Leicht kid and flavor-of-the-month David Gilliland, I guess. Sad. PleaseComeToSouthBoston
A: Yates' problem with Ward is sponsorship. I'd say, conservatively, that at least three-fourths of sponsors out there - at least those who can't land a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or a Jeff Gordon - want a young driver. They want someone whose face, smile and voice can get plastered all over billboards and commercials and attract a younger audience. What they don't understand is that scenario works only if you win. Fans love a winner, and if he just happens to be a handsome, young man, the more the better. If he's not competitive, though, most NASCAR fans will waste no time in casting him aside. Exhibit A is Brent Sherman, a handsome guy who started in BAM's No. 49 this year and quickly revealed himself to be in far over his head. There wasn't a big outcry when BAM turned him loose, and there won't be a big outcry if Stephen Leicht or David Gilliland wash out of one of the Yates cars. I guess what surprises me most is that as involved as Ward Burton is in outdoorsman activities, no one from that industry has stepped up to sponsor him.
Q: Is Kyle Petty going to be back in the 45 car, or is he stepping down? Who would Petty get to replace him if he left? Jean
A: I think Kyle will hang around for 2007, but I think next year will be his last. The tricky thing for the 45 car is that Kyle absolutely has to keep it in the Top 35 in owners points, because next year with all the expansions, we may very well see 45-50 competitive cars showing up for 43 slots. If the 45 slips outside the Top 35, Petty would be ill advised to break in a rookie next year - but at the same time, his qualifying performances are borderline at best. As to who they would get to replace Kyle, I don't have a clue. Petty has said he wants a young driver to develop, but hasn't identified anyone. They've run Paul Andrews' son Tim in a developmental car, but he's probably not ready, and a more likely scenario would be for Petty to hire a decent veteran driver - someone like Mike Bliss, etc. - for a couple of years to bridge the gap.
Q: What happens to some of these fringe teams heading into next year? I think it's a great part of NASCAR to have them showing up, but they obviously can't compete. Darrell K.
A: Right now, everyone's an optimist. Derrike Cope's team wants to run a full 2007 schedule, the Front Row guys keep plugging away, BAM keeps showing up every week, Victory Motorsports is trying to start up. If the top teams keep expanding, though, most of those guys will be out of jobs. I think Kevin Lepage will land somewhere, but that might be the extent of it.
Q: I really like Dave Blaney. He's a class act. What's going to happen to him? Will he stay with Bill Davis? Sherry T.
A: If you'd asked me that six weeks ago, I would have said no chance. But Blaney has quietly stabilized his team, which is underfunded, and has been very competitive lately. He might not be back with Bill Davis Racing, but he'll probably have options if he isn't.
Q: Now that MB2 has been sold to Ginn, what does DEI do? Weren't they looking to add two teams? Charlie McClain
A: They were, and now they probably won't. It would be best for them to concentrate on getting Paul Menard in the No. 15 competitive next year, because he'll have to race his way into the first five races, at least, and he's been a spotty qualifier in Nextel Cup. Trying to get two new teams running simultaneously could backfire in a big way.
Q: How about this scenario - let's quit worrying about which teenage kids with silver spoons in their mouths are going to show up and steal the veterans' jobs next year, and bring back Dave Marcis, Jody Ridley, Jimmy Means and Dick Trickle. They may not win, but at least we'll care. Crazy8
A: You're making me long for an old-timers' race, 8. Give me Dave Marcis and his wingtips any day.
So, is Jess right on with his Silly Season predictions, or just plain silly? Let him know by dropping him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org…or, send a different question or comment, and you very well might see yourself in this column next week?
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