The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving : Ward Burton, New Head Coach? by Frontstretch Staff -- Tuesday August 1, 2006

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Mirror Driving : Ward Burton, New Head Coach?

Frontstretch Staff · Tuesday August 1, 2006


Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest news from the past week or race weekend. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This week’s participants:
Ren Jonsin (Publisher)
Tom Bowles (Frontstretch Managing Editor / Mondays/Bowles-Eye View)
Dennis Michelsen (Tuesdays/Making the Grade)
Jeff Meyer (Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Cami Starr (Tuesdays/Who’s Hot, Who’s Not AND Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Race Trax AND Tuesdays/That’s History)
Mike Neff (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans AND Fridays/Full Throttle)

Most of the off week centered around the future of Robert Yates Racing, with crew chiefs Tommy Baldwin and Slugger Labbe released and Busch Series surprise David Gilliland unofficially signed for 2007. Now having officially replaced both drivers, crew chiefs, and its general manager for the start of next season, is this too much change to overcome?

Jeff: Sometimes it's good to start from the ground up.
Tom: I couldn’t agree more. Man, what a gutsy move by Yates to can the crew chiefs…they mean business. I think people forget they’ve seen their star driver killed and lost another one due to injury back in the ‘90s, and still rebounded to win the championship.
Cami: It’s probably a good idea to clean house and start fresh. They don’t have anything to race for really the rest of the year… why not do it now?
Mike: It will be a difficult adjustment, but I believe that is why Yates did it before the end of the season. I think the addition of Roush chassis is going to allow them to overcome a lot.
Amy: I’m not going to say RYR should expect to win right out of the box in 2007, but change could be good, since there was obviously a very deep rift there.
Dennis: Well, if Yates is hiring two inexperienced drivers, they should have kept some experienced crew chiefs. I am wondering if the best move for Yates is just to stick to building engines.
Ren: I disagree, Dennis; it’s going to be tough and it will take more than a season, but Yates has rebuilt before and gone on to win a championship.
Tom: How peeved are you if you’re Dale Jarrett? I mean, not that Yates should care about the rest of the 88 team’s season…or Sadler and the 38 for that matter. But the 88 is really going to suck the rest of the year.
Cami: When was the last time DJ had a crew chief for an entire season lately, anyway?
Jeff: DJ doesn't care. He’s looking forward to next year.
Mike: If I was DJ, I’d be trying to get over to Michael Waltrip Racing this year to start working on my cars.
Jeff: I was just going to say that DJ just may go this year.
Amy: You know, once Eddie D’Hondt went from Yates, the chemistry fell apart.
Dennis: Ha! Eddie D’Hondt’s leadership was a disaster…they went farther downhill since he came on. The only thing he did was hire good crew chiefs.
Amy: Agreed, Dennis. D’Hondt was NOT a good fit for that organization, but once he was gone, the people he hired fit in even less.
Tom: As for the drivers, I’m not so sure Yates won’t get Ward Burton, too, in a third car.
Dennis: Ward has to bring his own sponsor…I don't think that will happen.
Ren: They need to stay away from Ward Burton. If they are going to rebuild, rebuild. Don’t use a guy who has proved that he can’t win a championship.
Tom: I truly think Ward is the answer for Yates more than anyone else though. They need the veteran to step in and help these young guys learn how to drive. Leicht and Gilliland have so little experience at the Busch or Truck level that they need all the support they can get.
Ren: Ward is not a savior and he’s not a mentor. He’s never won anything.
Jeff: Ward is NOT the messiah? Must rethink my life.
Mike: Daytona 500 Champion Ward Burton?
Ren: Daytona 500 champion doesn’t mean squat. It’s not like they hired Terry Labonte or Bill Elliott. What’s Ward going to teach them? How to talk funny?
Mike: I think they need somebody that has driven a Cup car more than 200 laps.
Tom: Exactly, Mike…I wouldn’t say Leicht set the world on fire last weekend, either, in his debut.
Amy: But he had a very solid first race, Tom…rebuilding is not an overnight process, I don’t care who you hire.
Dennis: Ward is a proven middle of the pack racer…need I remind you that Derrike Cope can also brag about winning the Daytona 500!
Cami: But what other veteran driver is going to want to step into a team rebuilding and play teacher?
Mike: Ward also won other places, Dennis. What has anyone else done in BDR equipment? I think Ward is a heck of a wheelman.
Tom: Listen, Ward has ten times more experience those other guys have. He's no Nextel Cup champion, but the guy knows how to drive! He can be the coach these guys need when they tear up equipment at the Cup level.
Ren: Robby Gordon’s won three races. I wouldn’t want him as a mentor though.
Dennis: Ward is an average racer, which is not that bad of an insult…but he will never build your team into a champion.
Amy: But an average racer who knows his way around would be an asset to Yates…they aren’t looking at championships in the next couple of years, they’re looking at running consistently in the Top 15…big difference.
Jeff: Get Ricky Craven then. Just as good as Ward.
Dennis: How about Ricky Rudd?? That would be a better choice. Hell, people could even understand Rudd.
Tom: You know, I would like to see that, Dennis…I really would. But have Rudd and Yates fully mended fences?
Mike: Does Rudd want to come back and do it full-time again?
Ren: I Think Ricky Rudd has a No Trespass warrant against him at RYR.
Cami: I just don’t understand why everyone is so hot for Ward now. There are plenty of equally talented drivers still racing, even if it’s Busch or Trucks. You know, can Yates even find a sponsor for Ward?
Dennis: Yates isn’t looking for a sponsor for Ward…they said IF he brings one, they would hire him. If I could bring them a 20 million sponsor, they would hire me too!
Jeff: Ego check!
Mike: Knowing you, Dennis, you could talk someone into it.
Dennis: Well, there is a big difference between a team interested in you IF they can find you a sponsor or IF you can bring them a sponsor. And I am a proven commodity…I used to drive the tollway system every day and never wrecked!
Ren: Wow. You’ll know if it’s a good idea to pit when rain threatens.

20 races into the season, what do you think has been the most unexpected surprise of 2006, and why?

Cami: Biffle not being solidly in the Chase at this point.
Jeff: Tony on the verge of a breakdown.
Mike: I think the fact that Jeremy Mayfield, after two trips to the Chase, has been kicked to the curb without so much as a thank you.
Ren: Now THERE is someone who could go to RYR and make a difference.
Amy: Pleasant surprise of the year: Jeff Burton third in points. He’s always been a capable driver, but RCR hasn’t had a car in the Chase yet, and this year, they’re looking at two. Bad surprise: Carl Edwards. At the end of last year he was the best thing since sliced bread…this year, he’s proved he’s human.
Tom: I used to think it was Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek, and MB2, but recently I’ve been changing my mind to Jamie McMurray. Amy, I think Jamie’s failures may have spurred Carl’s team to fail itself.
Mike: I think Carl is more than human. I’d have been throwing stuff around the shop though if they took my crew chief and gave him to a driver who has never done anything because he sucks.
Jeff: McMurray never has been remarkable. Just a flash in the pan.
Amy: McMurray is an average driver, true, so he’s no surprise this year at all.
Ren: If you put him in the Championship car, he can win a race though. Problem is, he’s not in championship quality cars right now.
Mike: BS. Roush won two of the last three championships. The problem is, McMurray sucks. He’s never done crap in a car of his own.
Tom: Whatever the reason, that team has been the catalyst for Roush falling off the peak of the mountain. I mean, it's very possible they only have two teams in the Chase this year, and there's even…I mean, I doubt it will get this bad…but if Martin suddenly stumbles, they'll just have one. Now THAT would be a surprise.
Jeff: Yeah, but after 5 in, there is nowhere to go but down.
Amy: That’s true…although I’m not sure Roush is worse this year as much as everyone else has stepped up.
Jeff: Like Tony Stewart's temper.
Tom: Tony’s mental breakdown was a bit unexpected, to be sure. I think he’s completely unafraid to be himself again…and, for better or worse, that means being angry in public and spouting off ridiculous comments.
Ren: When he said that someone’s going to get killed at Daytona, I knew he was losing it.
Jeff: And then he tried to kill someone…
Tom: Meanwhile, poor Biffle not being in isn’t a surprise in my view. The guy just ran over a black cat in the offseason or something. He’s a poster child for a different points system if he doesn’t make it in, not Earnhardt, Jr. or Gordon. We could see the guy who leads the most laps all season not even be eligible to compete for the championship when there are TEN drivers eligible. How messed up is that?
Amy: Why is it messed up? If you lead a lot of laps and finish 35th, that’s not championship caliber.
Jeff: It's not that messed up, Tom. You have to lead the right laps.
Ren: It’s the same as it would be under the old system for Biffle. He's put himself there.
Cami: Tom, do you really think France is concerned about a stat like that vs guys with big sponsors and huge fan bases?
Tom: He should be. And Biffle being out of the Chase is messed up because he's constantly risking his neck to run up front, instead of stroking it for points three races into the season like certain guys do to make sure they make the Chase.
Amy: But if you’re not having good finishes, how do you deserve the championship?
Mike: That is all strategy. If you go out and burn your stuff up, you don’t deserve to make it. To finish first you must first finish.
Amy: It's bad enough a guy can have a decent 26 races, then 10 good races, and win the championship.
Cami: That’s how Kurt Busch managed to back door his way to a title.
Amy: Johnson won four races when Busch won his title, Busch won one in the Chase…NASCAR set up that system to reward winning in the last ten races, but it hasn’t worked that way.

As we enter the final 16 races, much of the focus will shift into Chase for the Championship mode, but that “other” race known as Silly Season is still very much in high gear. Who is under the most pressure in this final part of the season to keep their ride?

Tom: I still maintain Tony Raines is under the most pressure.
Jeff: And he shouldn't be. They need to stick with Tony.
Amy: Yeah, Raines has done with the equipment he has exactly what it’s capable of…he’s done a good job.
Mike: I think Todd Kluever is facing a lot of pressure. He was anointed to the No. 6 for 2007, and now I don’t know if he’ll even keep his Busch ride.
Cami: Yeah, that might blow up in their faces.
Amy: Kluever has done nothing to show he’s ready for Cup.
Tom: Eh, Martin’s Cup team has fallen off to the point I don’t think he wants to risk coming back in 2007 just to run midpack. Since there's no one else out there to sign, that may automatically give Kluever the nod.
Ren: Kluever came out of that racer X program. If he stays true to form, he’ll do fine.
Tom: Also think Blaney may be in trouble…with Baldwin back at Bill Davis, should the Yates – Ward thing fall through I can see Ward back there.
Ren: You know, if it were based on merit, this would have to be Ryan Newman. He hasn’t done anything this year, and you’d think that with the Evil Rusty gone, Newman would have at least have won one or two by now.

One of the unfortunate consequences of David Gilliland signing with Robert Yates is that his Busch Series team, Clay Andrews Racing, closed up shop. Sign of the times, or a case of a team that’s unable to carry on?

Amy: Sign of the times, unfortunately. Until something is done about Cup owners in Busch, more and more small teams will go by the boards.
Jeff: COT will help for awhile. Until they mandate the COT for Busch, too, of course.
Tom: Well, here’s a team that WON a race, against the Buschwhacker juggernauts…and you're telling me they can't get a sponsor with another driver? That’s a TERRIBLE sign for this series.
Dennis: Busch is hurting big time. With all these new Cup teams, are we seeing any new Busch teams?? Nope.
Mike: I don’t know the circumstances around the Andrews deal though. I thought that they were kind of put together just for David.
Amy: There just isn’t enough ready talent to go around like Gilliland…the sponsors are going to go with teams that might win. His team also won just one race…it was a great race and the car was outstanding…but it was one race, and they didn’t contend anywhere else.
Tom: Still Amy, that’s one more win than Johnny Sauter’s team. David Green’s team. Kenny Wallace’s team. They were part of an elite group of Busch only teams in that category…and still, sponsors didn’t bite. I mean, you can’t blame Gilliland for leaving…but…
Mike: If NASCAR doesn’t change how the money is distributed to the Busch only teams, I think we’ll see more of this type of thing in the future.
Jeff: Well, you are starting to see sponsorship issues in Cup, too. Like I said, the bubble has burst.
Amy: That’s the networks’ fault. Toni nailed it in her article last week. The networks’ shoddy coverage not only is unfair to the fans, but it discourages sponsors from continuing in or entering the sport.
Ren: TV can only cover so much. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing. If they try and give equal time to all the sponsors, they’ll miss the on track action most of the time and then you’ll see complaints about how they aren’t showing Junior and Jimmie Johnson enough.
Tom: Right. Point being, you won’t have people talking about the Cup drivers if you don’t allow the Cup drivers in the race. ‘Nuff said.

Predictions for Indy?

Jeff: Denny Hamlin.
Mike: Kasey Kahne.
Cami: Kasey Kahne. Damn, Mike!
Mike: Beat you!
Tom: I also think Kahne is going to get the job done. He’s been close, and he wants it pretty much as bad as Stewart wanted it last year.
Cami: Well, now that Tom jinxed it, I’m not using Kasey in the column. He’s all yours, Mike.
Amy: Jimmie Johnson.
Ren: Denny Hamlin…or Tony Stewart.
Dennis: Going out on a limb…give me Jeff Burton.
Cami: Jeff Gordon (maybe I’ll jinx him).
Mike: I was going to say Burton is my dark horse…OK, I'll take Junior then.
Ren: Wait, change my pick…Cale Yarborough.
Mike: Don’t you mean Cale Gale?
Tom: Look for a lot of big names to DNQ this weekend. Stremme could be in big trouble.
Dennis: Stremme is a big name?
Tom: Waltrip could be in big trouble, too…and not have a ride to buy out this time.
Amy: And the whole field would be safer…
Mike: Yeah, I think this could be a tough week for the NAPA car.
Ren: It’s always a tough week for the NAPA car. Apparently the driver forgot how to drive.

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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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Greg Smith
08/02/2006 04:40 AM

The NAPA Driver didn’t forget how to drive. He has crappy Bill Davis Racing equipment. He needs to sever his relationship with BDR, and go back to Chevy with DEI power. I can’t wait for this year to be over for him, Talk about a throwaway year.

Phyllis Stansell
08/02/2006 09:32 AM

Ren, I almost sunk to your level and started spouting ignorant statements…like the ones you made about Ward. But I am going to show all the humility, grace and diginity that Ward always shows. Aw, maybe not. You sir, are an idiot. Have a great day!

08/02/2006 09:35 AM

Usually, I enjoy reading the articles posted on your site, especially Tom’s stuff. But I just finished reading the most recent Mirror Driving, and I have to say that Ren comes off as an ignorant jackass. Maybe all of his derogatory Ward Burton comments were meant to get people fired up, since it is very obvious that there has been a lot of attention paid to his efforts to get back in Cup. Or maybe he’s just an ignorant jackass.

Burton has five career wins driving mediocre equipment for Bill Davis Racing. He has one Daytona 500 win, which I wouldn’t use to promote him since Michael Waltrip and Derrike Cope have also won the Daytona 500, and they suck….always have….always will. But if Ren had looked a little further, he would know that Burton has also won at Darlington twice, at Rockingham and at Loudon. All of these tracks differ greatly from one another, and I think any driver would agree that Darlington is a tough track to win at.

You question why people are making such a big deal out of Burton when there are plenty of good drivers in Busch and Trucks. Who are they? You didn’t bother to name any. Busch is full of Cup drivers and most of the rest of the drivers in Busch who aren’t full-time Cup drivers are driving for teams owned by Cup drivers or Cup teams. Yeah….that’s a real deep pool of applicants to choose from. And Trucks? Help me out here on this one. Bobby Hamilton Jr? Erin Crocker? Some retired Cup drivers? Burton proved he can’t win a championship? When has he had championship caliber equipment? How about Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson? They’re in superior equipment. They’ve proven they can’t win a championship so far too. As a matter of fact, with only 11 drivers owning the last two decades worth of championships, I guess there are several dozen drivers who have proven they can’t win a championship for their teams.

I’ve got some news for you, dude. The team that Burton ends up with is going to be far better off than Team Green (that means inexperienced….just in case you didn’t catch it) will be over at Yates. If Jarrett and Sadler don’t drop their teams out of the top-35 in owner’s points, Gilliland and Leicht will certainly finish them off. RYR is screwed, and no amount of ‘freshness’ in terms of drivers, crew chief, sponsors or general managers is going to change that. Why would any crew chief with talent want to go there now anyway? Trying to get some usable feedback from an inexperienced driver? Possibly being fired before the season is up (the RYR way of doing things)? Gee, where do we sign up??

Tom, keep up the good work. Ren, stick to publishing.

08/02/2006 09:47 AM

Well, there are a few I agree with here today. Too bad it’s not the participants in your article. They’re Clint and Phyllis who left feedback on your insulting article. You all have sunk to a new low. I’ve just deleted your website from my bookmarks. Kudos to Clint and Phyllis for saying what I felt when I read this. The Frontstretch is out of touch!

08/02/2006 10:16 AM

Cami: I just don’t understand why everyone is so hot for Ward now. There are plenty of equally talented drivers still racing, even if it’s Busch or Trucks. You know, can Yates even find a sponsor for Ward? Oh Boy ..did you open a can of worms will find out shortly ..he has legions of fans ..very , very loyal fans ..because of the person he is and his ability to drive …I still can’t believe you goofy people are stuck on the Yates thing ..get past it . Well this was it for me here , the last time I waste my time reading anything that is recyled from other columns to make it look like you are informed …you guys are about two weeks behind in NASCAR time

08/02/2006 10:23 AM

Tony is not on the verge of a breakdown. I have been following him for many years now and have seen when he has had those breakdowns and right now he isen’t even close. If he was on the verge of a breakdown he would not have been able to keep his head on straight and finish Pocono in 7th place. I think this week off from Cup racing did him alot of good. He also should be much more relaxed coming into Indy now that he has finally won that race.

08/02/2006 10:25 AM

Michael Waltrip didn’t forget how to drive because he never learned. He’s an average racer at best, the only reason he won the plate races because he was driving a DEI car that was head and shoulders above the rest. My grandmother could have pulled into Daytona victory lane driving that car when we has winning. The only drama watching him race is to see how many laps he completes before he wrecks or goes to the garage. Occasionally he’ll suprise me and finish a race, albeit 3 laps down.

6th Gear
08/02/2006 11:23 AM

“Your favorite columnists” are neither in my book. If Ward Burton were to ‘coach’ anyone he should start with some of the people on this website. He could teach a little humility and class to a few of you. It is so boorish and sophomoric to resort to the old line about how Ward Burton verbalizes that it shouldn’t bother his fans, but it does. It insults the good people of Virginia and of the south or any of us that speaks with any kind of accent, drawl or otherwise. Ward Burton has forgot more about racing than a majority of the current drivers in Nextel Cup will ever learn. Most of these greenhorns trying to break into Nextel Cup racing, as well as about 95% of the current crop of drivers wouldn’t make a patch on Ward Burton’s shirt when it comes to class, professionalism, and dignity on and off the track. There isn’t a more honest driver out there today than Ward. You all just keep sitting there at your keyboards and spit out words to see where they splat, because that’s all they are—spit.

And, none of it is worth a damn.

08/02/2006 11:37 AM

For the record, I can understand Ward perfectly. It’s you, with your childish remarks that I don’t understand. I’m very disappointed in this article. Most of you here should be ashamed of yourselves.

08/02/2006 12:17 PM

Ren if you put any loser in a team that is loaded. They will win example: M. Waltrip, E. Sadler, and J. Mcmurry. The point is put Ward on a team the has money and he will win. Bill Davis is as much as a fool as you are!

08/02/2006 12:27 PM

If you guys truly think that there are alot of equally qualified drivers besides Ward left out there, you should give up discussing NASCAR until you get a clue about this sport. Ward may not be of the caliber of a Jimmy Johnson but he is not far behind. He had some nice runs and season top ten finishes in mediocre equipment and didn’t become an “also ran” until BDR lost their manufacturer support and had Ward riding around in horrible cars that the great Dale Earnhardt himself wouldn’t have placed in the top ten.

Had Ward, in his prime, been given top shelf cars, he’d had have several more top ten season finishes and the win total would be much higher. Go back and research how many times he had DNFs from equipment failure when he had been running up front earlier in the race.

I agree that he probably was not one to win a points championship, but to say he was average is insulting. He may not be in his prime now, but put him in a decent car and he could still wheel it around the track better than most of the 43 car lineup

08/02/2006 12:51 PM

I read this article this morning, and I can’t tell you how mad it made me! I started to write to all of you at that moment, but thought it best to just give it some time & go from a rolling boil down to a simmer before I tell you exactly how I feel. Then I figured…it won’t do any good to try to explain logic to imbeciles.

WARD BURTON is a proven racecar driver…with years of experience and several wins during his career, which included driving pure JUNK disguised as racecars. He may not be your “typical young gun – -pimple faced, still wet behind the ears kid” but the knowledge & experience he has, doesn’t compare to the “unknown” kids being invited to drive on tracks and in races they are not prepared for. I’m so afraid that a young and inexperienced kid will find out the hard way how unprepared he really is when he starts running with the big dogs!

As far as the comments comcerning WARD’s accent…..let me tell you one thing….I’m from the south, and I still live in the south….I wouldn’t trade it for NOTHING!!! All of us at one time or another get ridiculed for our accents, or the “way we talk”, but I can guarantee you this…WARD doesn’t have to “talk” to show his racing ability. And he has more class than all of you combined!

When I am asked who I am of fan of, I very proudly answer – WARD BURTON! and the response is almost always the same….”WARD BURTON…good old WARD…I just love to hear him talk…he’s a great guy….we sure do miss him out on the track….hope he gets a ride again very soon!”

WARD has a fan following like you wouldn’t belive – then again, after this ridiculous article, you all may find out how dedicated his fans are.
He’ll be back….just wait and see….and when you have wiped your mouths from all the crow you will eat, I hope you can find it in your hearts, oh – I forgot…I’m not so sure any of you have a heart, anyway….an apology to WARD and his fans would be nice.

08/02/2006 01:01 PM

Thanks to all good and deesent people who has spoken up for Ward Burton. the columnists can all take a hike the crap they written this time are under my dignity to coment futher on.

mario romania jr
08/02/2006 01:10 PM

Ren, your a jerk, make fun of how people talk.
Ask Bill davis, and Haas how things have gone since they made Ward gone.Who can win a championship without being on a mega team?
Mark Martin? you jack ass
Ren.think before you write.

08/02/2006 01:20 PM

Wow!! It amazes me that simple comments about ones feelings for a particular driver has caused such a reaction. After reading the article and the responses it has generated so far, I have a few thoughts. First, I don’t see where what was said by the writers was anything more than I’ve heard from other media/fans/people in general about any other driver at any given time. Obviously, most of you are huge Ward Burton fans and you are very passionate about your driver. Ward is lucky to have fans that believe that strongly in him. However, I can’t believe some of the responses here. For one, EVERYONE makes fun of the way Ward talks, even his brother. Why does Ren get ridiculed for making one very small statement about it? And so he doesn’t think he’s that good of a driver and would make a good mentor for a struggling team that has to rebuild. Isn’t he entitled to his opinion, just as much as you are? I also read people talking about some of the writers not having class, etc. Why? Because they don’t agree with you? Because they don’t think Ward Burton could save RYR? That’s ridiculous.

There are those on our site who believe Ward could be an asset, and those who believe he wouldn’t. I understand all of you wanting to defend your driver, but it seems some of you are going a bit overboard. My opinion (which I’m sure means nothing to some of you if I don’t say that Ward is the greatest driver available) is that Ward definitely has talent and in his last couple seasons, at BDR and Haas, he wasn’t given the proper equipment or proper support to go out there and win. Is Ward the best driver available? Probably not, but a team could do a heck of a lot worse. To Keara, who responded to Cami’s comment about can Yates find a sponsor for Ward: It was supposedly Doug Yates who made the comment about how Yates could be a 3 car team if Ward comes up with his own sponsor. Their thoughts, not ours. That would leave me to believe that the two sponsors they have aren’t interested in Ward, and there aren’t a plethora of sponsors out there.

The passion you all have for your driver is commendable, however, the way you are going about it is not. As many of you have said, Ward IS a true class act. Unfortunately, the way some of you have handled yourselves in defending your driver, you aren’t representing him very well.

08/02/2006 01:40 PM

“Ren: They need to stay away from Ward Burton. If they are going to rebuild, rebuild. Don’t use a guy who has proved that he can’t win a championship.”

You mean so they can hire drivers like the ones they have now who will give all the young girls hot flashes but haven’t proven they can even finish a Cup race with all fenders in tact let alone win the Daytona 500 and the other 4 races Ward pulled out of his hat in equipment I wouldn’t feel safe driving to church on Sundays? Those qualified drivers?

With your kind of logic we can fire more than 1/4 of the field of Cup drivers right now because they haven’t even won a single race in their entire Cup careers.

The only thing Ward Burton has proven about winning championships is that it can’t be done in 4th rate equipment from an owner who only backs the team with sponsors who couldn’t fund my Jeep’s monthly gas bill.

08/02/2006 01:47 PM

I love it! What a great job by such a great publisher! Ren you are doing a GREAT job! It makes me smile anytime I see someone who steps up and does exactly what they are hired to do to uphold the standards for which they are employed! There is no dought in my mind that you will go far in the world of Nascar reporting with such informed comments as the ones you made about Ward Burton! With such insite you may someday surpass the level of dare I say Marty Smith over at! After reading your above comments I took a look over on this sites “About Us” page and read the following “ was founded back in 1998 by Butch Bellah as a site to publish his humorous look at the world of NASCAR. Having spent ten years on the standup comedy circuit, Bellah was looking for an outlet to write about the sport he loved, and the internet seemed the perfect place to start”.... Well Ren you have over done yourself upholding these standards! Your are more than just being humorous, you are just a clown! Hopefully this site will never decide to be a serious Nascar site and post actual educated comments because you will have to go work with your twin Marty Smith…. keep up the good work because I just can’t help from laughing at you!

08/02/2006 01:58 PM

Hey Nikki…
Nice comments and even better email address. “”. Not only does Ren uphold the standards of this site he must obviously enforce them also. Great job Ren keep up the good work!

08/02/2006 02:03 PM

Thanks, Mike. Coming from you, that means a lot!

08/02/2006 02:18 PM

Point of order! The comments directed at all of the columnists are not accurate. I did not demean Ward and I said I think he is a heck of a wheel man.

Thank you.

08/02/2006 02:37 PM

You say that Jeremy Mayfield is a better fit than Ward Burton and I quote:
Mike: I think the fact that Jeremy Mayfield, after two trips to the Chase, has been kicked to the curb without so much as a thank you.
Ren: Now THERE is someone who could go to RYR and make a difference.

Really last time I checked Ward and Jeremy both have 5 wins. Ward is the one with more prestigeous wins. Jeremy has also driven for Penske and Evernham. Thats a lot better equipment than Ward Burton had. And you people call yourselves experts, you must be some new punk fans like most of the drivers in NASCAR today.

08/02/2006 04:17 PM

Ren & Co.- you are clueless. Ward has won at Darlington and Daytona…among others. Your comments about his accent aren’t funny or in good taste. Others have poked fun at Ward’s accent but at least they were funny. “What’s Ward going to teach them? How to talk funny?”. I know funny and that’s not funny.

08/02/2006 05:16 PM

Imagine though how Yates feels having to go with two basically unknown drivers with little experience over someone like Ward. This sadly is how it works with sponsors..they want the fresh face over experience. Gilliland, while he has one Busch win competing with a few Cup guys hasn’t proven much more beyond that..somewhat a sad commentary on NASCAR that a guy with a Busch win is hot property nowadays. I’m glad he won, glad he beat the Buschwhackers but is that enough to make the jump to the big show? Can’t see it..

08/02/2006 05:43 PM

Not to worry! Doug hasn’t asked me my opinion on Ward so I don’t think it hurt his chances.

I’m not saying that Ward shouldn’t be racing, just that there are better choices out there for that team.

RYR doesn’t need a guy who’s 45 years old who has never been near a championship team to be a mentor.

They might as well put Jimmy Spencer in there. He’s comparable.

Well actually, he’s not. He’s taken a lap in a Nextel Cup car during the past two seasons.

Maybe Wally Dallenbach can help out. He’s run more laps than Ward too.

Maybe Geoffrey Bodine would like to come back. He’s won a ton more races and finished in the top ten a few more times too.

Ward’s retired. He just hasn’t figured it out yet. Let him get out with his dignity instead of coming back and leaving a legacy like DW.

08/02/2006 06:21 PM

You want comments..and then take offense ..My goodness ..first someone from the site lectures..and now this …believe me this didn’t help …you should have just let people voice their opinions and then move on your next column on Yates .

08/02/2006 06:27 PM

Ren do you honestly believe the stuff you are writing? Ok let’s talk stats here…
Doug hasn’t asked me my opinion on Ward so I don’t think it hurt his chances.
(I can’t imagine why why!)
RYR doesn’t need a guy who’s 45 years old who has never been near a championship team to be a mentor.
(How can you say that he could never win a championship if he has never been able to drive a championship level car?)
They might as well put Jimmy Spencer in there. He’s comparable.
(Show me the stats to back that up!)
Well actually, he’s not. He’s taken a lap in a Nextel Cup car during the past two seasons.
(The car of tomorow will whipe away all of that!)
Maybe Wally Dallenbach can help out. He’s run more laps than Ward too.
(Well hell with this theory Morgan Shepherd would be the 2007 Champion!)
Maybe Geoffrey Bodine would like to come back. He’s won a ton more races and finished in the top ten a few more times too.
(Look at the rides he had back in the day… good teams!)
Ward’s retired. He just hasn’t figured it out yet. Let him get out with his dignity instead of coming back and leaving a legacy like DW.
(The same thing happen to DW as happen to Rusty and Richard Petty…bad wrecks and the lost that edge after that!)

08/02/2006 08:03 PM

Nikki, in what way did the people that left comments today go overboard? They’re just stating their opinions just like you all were doing. I just feel it’s a little low to make fun of the way someone talks. I can only speak for myself, but I’m hoping that Ward finds a ride other than Yates. Yates comments about Ward bringing a sponsor are just as insulting to me as some ot the comments of some of the writers here voiced in the above article.

08/02/2006 08:48 PM

Folks, you’re all guilty of long-winded responses that are short on relevance. Let’s be blunt—Ward Burton was, at one time, a very good driver in bad equipment. To bring him back now would be a HUGE mistake—he’s missed too much seat time in recent years and is out of the loop, much like a Bill Elliott or Ricky Rudd. For these men, their time has come and gone. In fact, the whole discussion of whether or not Burton will drive for Yates next year is pointless—he will NEVER secure the sponsorship that Yates insists on. Ward is a great guy, but a very average driver at this stage of his career. Stop thinking emotionally and focus on being realistic—Yates will go with unproven youth for both of his rides, as well as a potential third ride, because that is the NASCAR blueprint nowandays. Just look at Kyle Busch and Hendrick Motorsports….

08/03/2006 06:32 AM

Maybe it was the way it was talked about in context that I didn’t care for. It sounded spiteful instead of in good humor. There is a difference. It’s sorta like working with little kids, what’s the difference in making fun of the kid in the class because he wears glasses or is overweight, and another student calling the other a name? Both sides here did both. But just because Ren isn’t the first to make a joke about the way Ward talks doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Maybe a lot of us are guilty for overreacting. As for Ward finding humor in it, I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. But put yourself in his place… what is he suppose to do about it? Does he have a choice? Probably not. He’s a good sport, he might just laugh, but what he feels deep down might not be as funny.

Like I said before, personally, I really don’t want Ward to go to Yates. And I don’t think that’s the problem many of the Ward fans are having that read your article. Some of you were trying to be funny, and many must not have thought you were.

08/03/2006 12:03 PM

I think that Steve Park has had enough time to fully heal and deserves another shot in the Cup. He has not been in a good Truck ride but I feel he still has some talent left. I wish someone would pick him up again as we have had the pleasure to meet him a few times and he is such a nice guy.

08/03/2006 01:16 PM

I hesitate to even comment on here again, but I will say this much. For all of us who disagree with Ren’s ignorant statements, we’re only giving this web site more hits by coming back here and commenting. It’s time to retreat and let them continue on with their groundbreaking journalism.

Ren, all of your remarks about Geoff Bodine, Wally Dallenbach, Jimmy Spencer….why is it that you give these guys more credibility for running in the back of the field and embarrassing themselves than you give Burton for sitting out during that time and not taking the same low-quality rides? It’s almost as if you are questioning his talent as a driver simply because he hasn’t driven. Isn’t that something you should wait to comment on until you see him drive again?? The truth is, none of us knows how he will do, but he doesn’t deserve the unsubstantiated, disrespectful comments leveled by you. And yes, lots of people imitate or comment on his thick accent, but somehow it doesn’t seem nearly as funny when you couple it with a comment like, “Ward is not a savior and he’s not a mentor. He’s never won anything” or “They need to stay away from Ward Burton. If they are going to rebuild, rebuild. Don’t use a guy who has proved that he can’t win a championship.” See where I’m going with this, Ren?

I’m not some rabid Ward Burton fan. I am a fan of competitive racing, and I am fed up with these homogenized, hair gel pimping, boring, mediocre young drivers being stuffed into these cars. It has become such an accepted thing that even people who have been writing about this sport for years are getting sucked into wondering out loud which one of them is best for what ride, when they’ve forgotten the real talent still standing there waiting to be picked like some shrimp of a kid on a playground. These guys are ugly ducklings in the eyes of sponsors, but they make the sport worth watching with grit and determination. People like you crucify them because they’re not out there racing right now, but if they swallowed their pride and got behind the wheel of the #49 or #34 and failed to make the race, you’d crucify them and question their talent because of that too. These guys want to race….not ride around just so they can say they are Cup drivers or so they can drive 20 laps, park it in the garage and collect their $60K on the way out. They are competitors.

08/03/2006 04:51 PM

I love the way Ward talks, that’s why I picked him as my favorite driver. I’ve missed him on the track so much and cannot wait until he returns. When you tell people you are an avid Ward fan, no matter who their favorite driver is, 99.9% always say “I like Ward”. I cancelled my MBNA card, picked up NetZero and dropped them the day he was fired. Hopefully you’ll eat your words Ren, and the sponsers will realize who spends the money and hire Ward.

08/03/2006 09:58 PM

I disagree with a lot of the Ward discussion. It seemed somewhat positive in nature starting off but then Ren’s negative view was expressed, and most of the group jumped on the “beat up Ward” bandwagon. Thanks Clint for your comment above, well-thought out and well-stated. Seems that the group doesn’t forget during Ren’s presence at the roundtable that he’s their boss.

08/03/2006 10:32 PM

Ok, so now I have read the comments and I am compelled to post again. First of all, let me restate that Ren’s position as “publisher” clearly gives his opinions more weight around the discussion table. I don’t think this helps to accomplish the intent of getting the writers together for a open discussion of issues. And Ren’s belligerence clearly was meant to “win” the discussion. Kudos to Mike and Tom for not changing their opinions for the Boss.

I came to be certain of this fact when reading Nikki’s “comment”. OMG. Truly, truly sophomoric and UNPROFESSIONAL. Nikki, being taken seriously in your profession requires more than kissing publisher a$$. It requires formulating and defending an original (even if unpopular) position. Then, when the criticism comes (as it invariably will), try not to wilt under it or worse yet, counter-attacking in a rage. I mean, to suggest that the Ward fans were an embarrassment to Ward is just, well, sophomoric. Are you trying to hurt their feelings? I don’t think they care and it just seems so…lame…and um, juvenile. (Decided not to use “sophomoric” again). Ren, though I strongly disagreed with his opinions and the undue weight given them, well at least his comment post stuck to analysis and further discussion and didn’t degenerate into a string of accusations and snippy attacks.

Time to get yourself an asbestos suit or get out of the kitchen.

08/03/2006 11:10 PM

For anyone to say that Ward can’t compete with todays young guns, I say give him a decent ride and watch! He will win a few. Also he has more class then 90% of the Bozo’s driving. Boy it sure is nice, people are talking him up.

08/04/2006 04:00 AM

Just for the record, my title of Publisher means that I handle the site design and also make sure the bills get paid.

The Frontstretch is operated by a board of editors, including Tom Bowles, Nikki Krone, Kim DeHaven, Toni Heffilfinger and myself. I have very little editorial input on the content though, other than to assist in choosing writers when they apply.

Believe me when I say that no one who writes for this site will tell me something that they don’t believe to be true simply because my name is on the domain registry. Especially not the two writers who were on the same side of the issue as me in this INFORMAL CONVERSATION.

Dennis Michelsen publishes his own very successful site, while Jeff Meyer has never been known to be politially correct.

The Frontstretch is a commentary and editorial feature based site. it is NOT a news site. We are NOT reporters. If you want to know what happened, read a newspaper. If you want to know our opinion on what happened, come here. Sometimes you’ll agree with it, sometimes you wont. If we all thought the same way, there really wouldn’t be any point in voicing an opinion.

Thanks for the comments, though. This article’s comments are closed now. Feel free to post at the message board if you still have something to say.

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