The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Junior Aces One, Nationwide Notes, And A NASCAR History Lesson by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday July 24, 2008

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Fanning the Flames: Junior Aces One, Nationwide Notes, And A NASCAR History Lesson

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday July 24, 2008


As I listened to the Jim Rome Show while sitting at my desk on Tuesday, I cringed when I remembered that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was to be a guest. Don’t get me wrong, I like Junior — I’m no rabid diehard, but I’d like to drink a beer with the guy. Thing is, I really didn’t know how he’d handle Rome’s up-in-yer-grill style and combative, machine-gun line of questioning. Junior’s a man of many things, but aggressive he ain’t; not in an interview setting, anyway.

Turns out I had no need to worry: Junior aced that bad boy.

See, Rome plays a little disclaimer montage any time he interviews one of the good ‘ol boys. Goes something like this: “Great guy … always on time … well spoken … I get it! … they’re all like that! … total pro.” The clip goes on and on (much like Rome himself). And that’s bad for Junior, or so I thought — for as sincere and straight-up as he is in interviews, he oftentimes looks and sounds more than a little uncomfortable with a mic in his chops. “Ummm, well, da car run good … and ah … I don’t know, I’m proud of Tony and da guys. And ummm, y’know … we’ll jus’ keep workin’ on things and ummm … hope to win a couple ‘a these before the season’s over.” You know, like Junior wants to get on the chopper and get back on home.

Well, that wasn’t the same driver who sat for a segment on this show. The boy was playing along with Rome’s schtick, joking with the host and even taunting the one-time NASCAR hater at the end of the spot when he told Rome that he’d be expecting a call; because Junior knew after Rome’s first race this weekend, he’d be hooked and looking for more.

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver was as focused during an interview on the Jim Rome Show as he’ll be going for his first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend.

Say what you will about Rome — I could really care less if you like him or not, because that isn’t the point here — that interview was a big deal for the sport. Keep in mind that Rome’s syndicated radio program reaches millions of people every day who are sitting in their cubicles typing away, many of whom are not NASCAR fans and could care less about making something as simple as a left turn. But it’s Indy week, and that was the sport’s poster boy who drives for the sport’s most decorated and recognizable operation, in position to turn up the hype in a place where hype didn’t previously exist. I honestly didn’t know if Junior would deliver the goods, but he did — and on the heels of a revealing interview with a former college and pro football player whose story concerned a descent into drug addiction and subsequent rehab, at that. Believe me, that’s not an easy guy to follow.

So good job, Dale Junior. You represented the sport well, like most of the drivers we follow each week. At a time when other professional athletes are being busted daily for a myriad of offenses, you guys continue to make us proud … and that’s not said often enough.

OK, on to a few questions. Here’s the link to my world … be sure to give me a shout with any questions, rants, raves, concerns, opinions, or feedback you may have. We’ll start with two that were answered, actually, just this week:

Q: My question: Have you heard anything about penalties on Carl Edwards’ Nationwide Series No. 60 car? NASCAR found illegal brakes on the car after the [Chicagoland] race. Thanks. — Jasper

A: Yeah, NASCAR confiscated Edwards’ brake calipers following the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The parts in question were deemed “unapproved” — never did I hear the term “illegal” used. Thus, NASCAR announced this week (after Jasper here sent his question) that no penalties were forthcoming.

Nationwide Series director Joe Balash explained that, “The two front calipers we took from the car were not on our approved brake list. As we have done on some other parts, the first offense is we just take the components from the team.”

Now, I’m not sure what it being the “first time” for the team has to do with anything, but we have seen teams bring parts and pieces to the track in the past that NASCAR didn’t like, and they simply told them not to bring those things back (I tend to remember an entire car one Ray Evernham built which was banned from the garage back in the ‘90s). That philosophy seems to be at play here. And before someone labels me a NASCAR apologist, just remember that racing was built on innovation. Besides, how are jimmied-up brake calipers going to help at Chicagoland, of all places?

Q: What, if anything, has NASCAR found on the engines they dyno’d from the Nationwide Series? That happened after the Chicago race — will we hear of findings before ORP? The way Toyota is winning everything, I bet NASCAR scales them back. What is the latest? Or is it still quiet? Any update would be cool. Thanks Matt. — Jacob Schmitt

A: Another impeccably timed query. I had a whole response written up that changed a couple hours before deadline for this one, but I got to vent at the end — so I don’t mind. Here’s NASCAR’s official release, which is basically a rules amendment:

Effective as of July 23, 2008, section 20A – 5.10.4 is amended as follows: At all events, unless otherwise specified, all engines with a cylinder bore spacing less than 4.470 inches must compete using a tapered spacer with four (4) 1.125-inch diameter holes. At all events, unless otherwise specified, all engines with a cylinder bore spacing of 4.470 inches or more must compete using a tapered spacer with four (4) 1.100-inch diameter holes. Unless otherwise authorized, the carburetor restrictor will be issued by NASCAR.

In other words, NASCAR is restricting Toyota’s oxygen mix in the fuel in order to reduce horsepower; that way Chevy, Ford and Dodge can all get participation medals, even though a Gibbs Toyota will probably continue to beat the crap out of them.

Again I cry, “What happened to innovation in NASCAR?” Seriously, if Toyota found a way to generate more ponies, pat ‘em on the back… don’t penalize them. Someone in TRD or JGR’s engine department is beating the pants off the other three makes — which is what he’s paid to do — and NASCAR is so set on having every race come down to a door-to-door battle off Turn 4 of the final lap that it, once again, is stifling the one thing this sport was built upon: ingenuity.

Q: Hi Matt! Before Indianapolis was added to the schedule, I always considered the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, and the Coca-Cola 600 (or World 600 as I remember it best) as the three crown jewel races in NASCAR. Can you tell me if any driver has won all three of those races in the same year? Thank you. We enjoy your column. — Harold and Beth Vigil

A: I can tell you all have caught onto my affinity for researching the history of the sport, because I seem to get one of these per week. And that’s a good thing.

Yes, Vigils, this feat’s been accomplished three times in the past. LeeRoy Yarbrough was the first to do so, driving a Junior Johnson-owned Ford to victory in all three events in 1969. Yarbrough enjoyed his most successful season on tour that year, racking up a career-best seven wins while participating in only 30 of 54 races.

Next up was the Silver Fox. David Pearson, in his Wood Brothers Purolator Ford, pulled the trifecta in 1976. That, of course, was the year he and Richard Petty wrecked coming off Turn 4 in the Daytona 500 and Pearson, by virtue of being able to keep the engine fired, beat Petty to the line in one of the greatest finishes ever.

And last but not least to do it was Lil’ Jeffy Gordon in 1997. Between ’96 and ’98, the then-Rainbow Warrior won damn near everything, so it was only natural that he won all three of these races in the same season. By this time, the Indianapolis date had been added (and Gordon had already won it once); but he couldn’t pull the superfecta, finishing fourth at the Brickyard.

A couple of other notes, if you’re still reading: Ol’ DW won two of the three in 1989; Gordon won the 600, the Brickyard, and the Southern 500 in ’98; Jeff Burton went two-for-three in ’99; and Dale Jarrett came closest to winning all four when he won the Daytona 500, Coke 600, and Brickyard 400 in ’96 — but when about to make history, he finished 14th in the Southern 500.

Boom. Outta here.

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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
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07/24/2008 08:05 AM

Can you imagine? That in a sport called “motor racing”, that you actually get penalized for doing your job better than anyone else?

Welcome to the Circus World called NA$CAR! Oh? We have a team (Toyota) that has figured out a way to go fast! Oh! We now must penalize Toyota for winning!

How sick is that?

Just another step toward IROC mediocrity!

And I was considering going to MIS with guests for the Nationwide series race, but not any longer, well there are another eight (8) tickets not going to be sold at MIS!

When will NA$CAR learn! Or maybe, even care?

Travis Rassat
07/24/2008 08:14 AM

Is it just me, or does it seem odd that they would base the carb spacer on the cylinder bore spacing? It seems to me, they are digging pretty deep to find a way to say “the Toyota engine” without saying “the Toyota engine.”

On the other hand, the cylinder bore spacing will affect the intake runner length, so perhaps this is a proper approach.

I don’t know what to think, really. I was putting some thought into heading over to IRP with my wife Saturday night, but I think I’ll pass now. I want to see how this turns out first.

07/24/2008 10:50 AM

Douglas – It seems that every post you type is negative.

WHY ARE YOU EVEN WATCHING THE RACES? or reading about them, or keeping youself in tune with the sport….WHY?

Is someone holding you hostage and forcing you?

I don’t get it, you have at a minimum 8 other channels…JUST CHANGE THE CHANNEL, you’ll live longer.

It’s like you’re the guy who loves the sport, hates the changes, can’t move forward, so everything will be negative.

just my opinion…

07/24/2008 01:40 PM

Some quotes is that the other manufacturers should step up the plate but Nascar is not allowing the Nationwide teams to run the new RO7 motor which is approve for cup. Yet Toyota is allowed to run the same motor in both divisions so how is that fair! force a major manufacturer to continue running a motor that is a decade or more old (SB2). So how is “stepping up to the plate” possible when you are not allowed to run the newer engine design that is being run at cup level. After last year debacle I guess something had to be done to make Toyota “look good”

07/24/2008 03:24 PM

It really frosts my balls to hear someone refer to an engine as a motor—-do you know the differance????

07/24/2008 04:37 PM

For those so “politically correct” that it does terrible things to their body parts the proper term is “engine” but since people referred racing as motor sports and terms like motorcycle are common usage the two terms are interchanged and most but the most grammatically retentive allow this without their body parts getting into an uproar. But as mentioned some few have such issues that their body parts start doing terrible things.

Jeff G
07/24/2008 06:34 PM

Hey Don!
What you say is correct, but “it don’t mean nothin’” when it comes to NASCAR. I can’t believe you are even a fan. Have you EVER heard a driver say “the ENGINE broke”, or “something happen in the ENGINE”…??…
It’s just how they “talk” in NASCAR
You are too funny man.

07/24/2008 06:46 PM

Hey DH! Thanks for the comment, BUT! Remember, we are discussing NA$CAR here, so when I see something positive I certainly will let you know!

About the “only” thing positive these days in the NA$CAR world, is????


And low and behold!! Just what does he drive?

Yepper!!! A TOYOTA!

Think they, NA$CAR, would make those changes if Jr. was winning?


And, what is wrong with my thinking when it falls into line with the people that are simply not even showing up at the tracks anymore?? By the tens of thousands!

Oh, right, they just stay home and say nothing!

Right on!

Me? I think being outright “religious” about what the sport “COULD BE”, thinks that change will occur ONLY if one continues the assault on that drunkard Brian France & company! He should take the Wall Street Journal out of his hands, and pick up a real “racing paper”! Maybe he would learn something.

I am not easily impressed with a poor product! Whether store bought, or provided to me on the race track!


And I simply cannot believe anyone that still thinks NA$CAR provides a quality product these days!

Sorry if you do!

Now, getting back to the article itself, I just love the terminology
“restricting Toyota’s oxygen mix in the fuel in order to reduce horsepower”!!!

What a hoot! OK! OK! by reducing the incoming air to the carburetor, oxygen is reduced. But oxygen is only part of what is reduced to the carburetor! Actually stating specifically “oxygen”, is misleading! It is only a single component of air! Had to read & re-read that to wonder what the statement was really about, as though the gods at NA$CAR have a way to reduce ONLY the oxygen going thru the restrictor plate, not all the other elements!

Strange way to word things me thinks!

Oh oh!! Someone just stole my soapbox!!

Bye Bye!!

07/24/2008 06:56 PM

Minor nitpickings here: Lee Roy won in a Ford at the Daytona 500 but spent most of the ’69 season in a Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II. Also, Pearson spent the ’76 season in a Wood Brothers MERCURY

07/24/2008 11:46 PM

Me thinks Doug should hop in his Jap tin and take a long drive off a short pier to cool off a tad…

07/25/2008 09:30 AM

Oh! Oh! “Bdeholl”!

A bad assumption! a VERY bad assumption on your part!

I grew up in BIG THREE LAND! My family has been employed by the “Big Three” for over 70 years, and still are (Ford & Chrysler), and you totally mis-read and mis-interpret what I said! Please read again!

I view racing now as “generic” between manufacturers. What happened was that NA$CAR penalized a “specific” manufacturer for being “better” than another, or read that “TEAMS” being better than another!

I always thought the idea of “professional” racing was to be smarter than the other teams, and place a car on the track better than the other teams, no matter who the team or manufacturer is!

BUT! It seems in NA$CAR, that a team is being penalized for doing their job better than any other team! And remember, NA$CAR “APPROVED” all engines and components at the beginning of the year! (I would state the same thing no matter what the manufacturer brand was!)

So? Why change now?

And, if NA$CAR is so intent on changing things? Then why not make some changes to the CoT so it drives better!

Another inconsistent decision making process by NA$CAR!!

Trust me! NA$CAR is being run by a group of total idiots!

07/25/2008 10:18 AM

No Doug you seem to be missing the point, Go back and look at the history of the SB2 Chevy engine that was first released for Nascar approval back ~1995. So the engine that Chevy teams have to run in the Nationwide series are over a decade old in engine design. Toyota Nationwide engines on the other hand recently developed special purpose units that were improvements on the truck series engine and are used in both Nationwide and Cup series. Nascar has seen fit to for the GM teams to run an engine that is way past it’s engineering lifetime and has been replace by the RO7 in the cup series. Allow the other manufactures to run the same engines packages they do in Cup with the only difference being the carb/spacer that has to be run and I am sure that the Toyota would not have nearly as many wins. It’s easy to win when you have drivers that are of comparable skill sets, and cars that are comparable handling and you have 15-30 hp advantage.

Matt T. -- FS Staff
07/25/2008 01:32 PM

Douglas, as to your post …

“Now, getting back to the article itself, I just love the terminology
“restricting Toyota’s oxygen mix in the fuel in order to reduce horsepower”!!!
What a hoot! OK! OK! by reducing the incoming air to the carburetor, oxygen is reduced. But oxygen is only part of what is reduced to the carburetor! Actually stating specifically “oxygen”, is misleading! It is only a single component of air!”

According to StockCarScience – one of my favorite and most informative sites:

“The octane molecule – one of the common molecules in gasoline – combines with oxygen. Exactly two octane molecules combine with exactly twenty-five oxygen molecules to make eighteen water molecules and sixteen carbon dioxide molecules, plus the energy that is used to make the car move. Each chemical reaction contributes a tiny bit of energy.”

Oxygen, air. If I misled I apologize, but at least I’m not getting my “engines” and “motors” messed up!

And Tim, you’re right. My bad.

07/25/2008 02:42 PM

Thanks Matt, but can you also see my point? Air
is being reduced, all air, not just the oxygen, hey, this keeps me sharp!! LOL!

And for RJ!! Once again, we are discussing “IMMEDIATE & MID-SEASON CHANGES” to a single make of car, not like changing the restrictor plate for ALL cars just prior to a race!

The key is “IMMEDIATE”, not next year, not last year, but NOW!! For a single manufacturer. Oh, I am sure you can find some NA$CAR history that says they occasionally do this, but in my simple mind! WRONG IS WRONG!

Now??? What’s a motor?

07/28/2008 09:37 AM

I am thinking Douglas needs to watch a sport that would have a more calming effect, such as WWE, UFC or the NFL! Motor, Engine, whatever! It’s not called “Enginesports”, or Enginecycle, or “that driver is really engineing to the front of the field”. I am certainly not a KY Busch fan, but I certainly do not agree with the restictions on the Toyotas. Before you know it, all drivers will be issued a bicycle, and then we’ll see who the real athlete is…


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
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