The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Ganassi's Woes, Gibbs' Rookie, and Gordon's Typical Loudon Stunts by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday September 18, 2008

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Fanning the Flames: Ganassi's Woes, Gibbs' Rookie, and Gordon's Typical Loudon Stunts

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday September 18, 2008


For those of you that did not catch last week’s Fanning the Flames, I have to share one of the funnier post-article comments I’ve seen in a year and a half of writing for the Frontstretch. In response to a question and subsequent answer by yours truly concerning the Tony Stewart Rolling Stone article, a poster known simply as “Michael” had this to say:

Y’know, if there’s a way to get the casual fan to question the legitimacy of racing’s athletes and the ability it takes, it’s probably showing them a picture of a fat race car driver in his undies eating ravioli and then saying, “This guy is one of the best ones.”

Talk about your observational comedy … did you mug Jerry Seinfeld on the way to the keyboard, Mike? Bravo, my man. Bravo. And so damn true.

OK, now that we’ve dispersed with the sharing portion of the column, let’s hit the questions. As always, you guys stepped up this week after a one-off dud. Thanks for the pick-me-up — and keep ‘em coming. Here’s your link.

Q: Richmond was one of the few races this year that actually lived up to the hype. It’s what we should have seen at Bristol and didn’t. So, is the crapshoot [of short track racing] the CoT, or is the “new” track at Bristol more to blame for the lack of intensity and excitement?
— SallyB

A: I’ll take “None of the Above” for 100, Sally. You know, I still really like Bristol — I don’t mind seeing the boys run on two separate, safe and well-defined grooves — but that’s not the question. Your question is, in essence, what’s changed? I believe the reason you don’t see the heart-stopping, non-stop, edge-of-the-seat drama (read: rubbin’, bumpin’, & bangin’ … which, don’t get me wrong, are all beautiful pieces that make up the quantum of short track racin’) is The Bristol Night Race’s location on the schedule since the introduction of the Chase.

Think about it; the season’s second Bristol date has been in August every season since 1976. Of those pre-Chase seasons, only twice in those 28 races has the championship battle involved more than three drivers with a realistic shot at winning the Cup. Since the advent of Brian’s Chase, however, there are upwards of five or six drivers just trying not to fall out of the Top 12 — nevermind the ones with a prayer of getting in that are trying not to fall any further back and just trying to get out of Bristol intact.

The Bristol night race lacked the rubbin’, bumpin’, & bangin’ we are accustomed to from past years this season, with the fewest lead changes for a 500-lapper since the late 1970s.

That, and we all remember Bristol for the Earnhardt vs. Labonte and Rusty vs. Gordon finishes. Lest we forget that Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch ran away with a few … and don’t even get me started on DW’s run in the ‘80s. My point: Yes, Bristol may be different with a CoT, new banking, and a new surface, but good racing still abounds. Just ask Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick: all the participants in thrilling Bristol finishes since the ’07 Spring race.

Q: Matt, back to JPM and Ganassi…what is going on there? He has no teammates and only half a sponsor. Will he still be in Cup next year? Or should I just throw this year and next out and hope for better in 2010? I read on Yahoo that JPM is happy with Ganassi and that he believes it will turn around, but I don’t see it. Do you know of anything happening behind closed doors that may shed some light on this?
— Ben Pierce

A: I don’t see it either, Ben, and I’ve been told there are not many owners or drivers that want to deal with Chip Ganassi. I believe the quote I was given went something like, “Personality-wise, he is 12 laps down.”

Juan Pablo Montoya is saying the right things in the media and sticking up for a man that’s been loyal to him. Fine — you can’t fault “John Paul” for that. But, as you’ve stated, the future doesn’t look bright at the moment. Wrigley is only on for a partial primary, and Target re-upped for ’09. Montoya is on board, but past that things appear pretty murky. From the info I’ve gathered, Ganassi is looking for a merger, but whether that happens with Michael Waltrip Racing (as has been speculated) is still very much up in the air.

My advice, Ben: Buckle up the safety harness and hope that Chip Ganassi Racing even makes it to 2010.

Q: Why did Gibbs put Joey Logano in the 96 Hall of Fame car? I know HoF is a satellite team [to Joe Gibbs Racing] but haven’t enough drivers over the last few years proven that car is junk? They should have kept him in the JGR car and hoped for the best. What a confidence hit!
— Paul

A: Weather, Paul. It was widely known that rain was in the forecast for Loudon on Friday, and JGR wanted seat time in a Cup race for Logano. He wouldn’t get it in the No. 02, which isn’t even a blip on the Top 35 radar when — not if — qualifying was rained out. And don’t kid yourself, that was a JGR Toyota. It was just one with a skeleton crew and a driver thrown into a car and an event that was a little more daunting than he could handle.

He’ll get better, but I told you guys last week that this is a whole new stratosphere he’s blazing into here.

Q: Who blocked [Jeff] Gordon in his stall at NHMS?
— Gilbert Daniel

A: Well, they were at New Hampshire, the car in question was a lap down, and getting in the way of those running on the lead lap. Sounds like Robby Gordon to me… twice.

And on a personal note before I leave, let me use my pixilated megaphone to say congratulations to my sister and brother-in-law, Kara and Chris, on the birth of their beautiful new baby girl, Molly Beth. Like most newborns, she looks kind of like a raisin right now… but she’ll be pretty in no time!

I gotta run to the ER, now — the girlfriend just mistook her finger for a sirloin with a steak knife. It’s gonna be a long night …

Contact Matt Taliaferro

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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…


©2000 - 2008 Matt Taliaferro and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

09/18/2008 06:25 AM

Boy , how many years have we been subjected to this guy bursting into tears over all of the other drivers being mean to him .Yes, its always everyone elses fault but Jeffs .The only person getting in Jeff Gordons way was Jeff Gordon . Are we supposed to believe that Jeff was the only driver who had to deal with other cars being close in the pits . Virtually every other driver in the race was faced with the same problem on every pitstop . Yet they all dealt with it instead of whining . Jeff Gordon needs to at least pretend to be mature .

09/18/2008 06:53 AM

So, are you saying that cars in the chase should have exclusive access to the pits? Or are you implying that Robby was not legally within his pit stall?

I was there, and had a pretty good view. Robby was in the front right corner of his stall in both occasions. Jeff was at the front of his stall, but close to the pit wall. (I have pictures I can send you, if you don’t beleive me.) Jeff and his crew knew there was a car in the stall in front of them. Why didn’t they adjust their position to make it easier?

09/18/2008 07:15 AM

I frist saw and herad Jeff Gordon at the famed Rock. During a pit stop we always scanned the radio to hear what the drivers were saying and planning and so on. We actually heard Jeffie tell his team he thought the tires were – are you ready for this – “TOO ROUND” perhaps that was code-talk for something else, but it sure sounded damn funny on the radio… “sorry ‘bout that buddy, we’ll see if we can square them up for you on the next stop”

From that day forward I always kind of thought of him a a whinner…. well… I guess I still do…..

09/18/2008 08:29 AM

Quote: “and getting in the way of those running on the lead lap. Sounds like Robby Gordon to me… twice.”

I repeat, “and getting in the way of those running on the lead lap”?

Hey, with your silly thinking, maybe NA$CAR needs to implement the “AUSTRALIAN PURSUIT” rule in their cup series, once you get passed, your simply out!

Then a candy as* like Jeff can’t complain about someone “getting in his way”! Imagine that, 43 cars racing, and someone gets in someones way? How delirious!

But! Lets now get back to the “CHASE” itself, or chumpionship! Why in the world do only 12 cars run for a chumpionship, and/but those 31 cars that have been totally eliminated and forgotten are still allowed on the hollowed ground at the same time?

HUH? How stupid is that?

(gee, I don’t know, lets ask Brian!

Hey Brian? Where in the hel* did you ever come up with “THE CHASE”?

Was it after a bout with Jack Daniels, Jim Beam (no probably not, they sponsor your favorite driver Robby), or Budweiser?

It sure wasn’t after a bout with Pepsi!

Matt T. -- FS Staff
09/18/2008 10:07 AM


I call Robby out this week because he has a history of being a rolling road block at NHMS. Robby vs. Biffle in ’04 that eliminated two Chasers immediately, Robby vs. Mikey in ’05 (yes, Mikey was on the lead lap — finished 15th). I could go on …

I like what Robby’s doing with the single-car team and that he’s a racer to the core, but the boy just doesn’t use his head sometimes. I read a poll taken anonymously of drivers this past week in SI that had Robby as one of the toughest guys on the circuit to pass — and hey, that’s great and all, but when you’re five laps down and racing the third-place car on the track for everything you got, you need to accept the fact that you’re driving junk and not adversely effect the outcome of a race. If you have no shot, let the guys who do duke it out amongst one another. Robby has never gotten that and that’s why he often finds himelf pointed in the wrong direction on the racetrack.

09/18/2008 10:37 AM

I beg to disagree!

43 cars are a a’ racing!


And Robby’s 35th place (or so) is as important as Jeffie’s 5th or 6th is to him!

NA$CAR made the rules!

And, if “getting in the way” of a chase car is so dastardly, then why does NA$CAR in all it’s wisdom, gee? did I say “wisdom”, so sorry, make the “chasers” race on a track with 31 other cars, some of which will actually be a lap down?

As proven time and time again!

So? ANY? And I ask “ANY” car not in the “chase”, should just give way to a chase car! Whenever? Whomever?

And that’s called “racing”?

A bad format for the “chase”, is still a bad format for the chase, lets not blame drivers who have their own goals!

Matt T. -- FS Staff
09/18/2008 11:22 AM


My argument does not center on non-Chasers racing against Chasers (or not racing against Chasers, whatever). You can ask any driver on the circuit and he’ll tell you that a car running four, five … 10 laps down has no business racing the leaders like hell. Why? Because he’s done! If you’re Robby, then race Dave Blaney and Scott Riggs hard, but the leaders who are multiple laps up should be allowed to race.

Did you agree with the way Mikey raced Carl at Bristol in ’07? Mikey was two laps down, obviously much lower, and had NO SHOT at winning (it is the 55, after all). He blocked race leader Edwards for 10 or 15 laps just to get his NAPA logo on TV for a few minutes!!! That, my friend, ain’t racing.

Now I’m not saying Robby races the way he does for the same reason Waltrip does, but the fact a slower, multiple-lap down car can effect the outcome of a race goes against how 99 percent of the guys out there race.

And a quick note on “Jeffie”: I wrote what I wrote not in defense of Jeff or with sympathy in mind … it had more to do with Robby once again causing trouble at NHMS. And with a grain of tongue-in-cheek thrown in for good measure…!

stan smith
09/18/2008 12:43 PM

Jeffs problem that race was not robbie blocking him in, it was steve letart not taking a chance and pitting like tony steward did and trying to win the race. For gordon to win the chase he needs to take the chances that chad and jimmy did last year and stop trying to just get top 10 finishes.

09/18/2008 12:54 PM


Actually, and the truth of today’s “racing” as some call it, is: “just to get his NAPA logo on TV for a few minutes!!!”

Still not sure what “your” rules are for “get the hell out of my way”?

Is it down one lap? Two laps, running 13th?

Or? Is it a “popularuty contest”, where the driver radios in to his crew “is the driver behind me more poplular than I am”?, I need to know when to move over!

And all along I thought EVERY position was valuable to EVERY driver!

Isn’t that how drivers get graded?

SPONSOR”: “gee, I don’t want to sign that driver, he moves over too easy and lets cars by him”!

And the NA$CAR saga of the chase goes on!

Funnier than SNL!

(OH, almost forgot, wasn’t Robby “only” a lap down? Have you ever heard of that other silly NA$CAR rule: THE LUCKY DOG”? Sounds like that’s worth fighting for!)

Kevin in SoCal
09/18/2008 01:04 PM

Was Gilbert Daniel watching the same race I was? Even ESPN’s putrid coverage of the race mentioned Robby Gordon in front of Jeff Gordon in the pits, both times.

09/18/2008 01:04 PM

C’mon Matt, look at reality. Robby had dropped out of the all-important top 35. Sunday he was racing his butt of to get back into the top 35. He’s not going to screw up his own pit stop to let Jeffy have an easier time getting out. He’s not going to move over to let Jeff by – at the risk of losing important track position. He fought hard to get the finish he did, and put himself back into the top 35 – incredibly important for any single car team.

If Jeff isn’t able to pass a slower car, and is not able to get in and out of his pits, then maybe he’s the one who should get out of everyone elses way.

09/18/2008 01:11 PM

A true race car driver will always be racing , on the lead lap or five laps down . The alternative is giving up and i can’t imagine a real driver doing that . And if the drivers who felt they weren’t competitive were required to pull off the track and went to the garage ,the field would be pretty small at the wave of the checkers .
Thats an interesting idea about Michael Waltrip blocking your favorite driver Carl ( apparently ) on two separate occaisions . If you really believe that Michael Waltrip has the driving ability or the car to stay in front of the leader at will so he can get on tv , you have a vivid imagination indeed .

Matt T. -- FS Staff
09/18/2008 03:20 PM

I’m from Owensboro, KY, Mikey’s hometown — not saying I pledge any allegiance, but I can tell you I’d be more apt to root for Mikey than Carl. Get hold of a tape of that race and you’ll see what I’m talking about — it was pretty obvious.

Guys, I’m all about everyone racing hard ever lap, but face it, there are times when it’s prudent for a slower, non-competitive car to move aside to let a second, third or fourth place guy go if he is tracking down the leader. I’ve never been one to buy into the idea of a “gentleman’s agreement” but that’s as close as it comes.

The next time you see a guy like Blaney, Nemechek or Schrader holding up a much faster car just for the sake of holding him up — because it’s “my real estate” — it’ll be the first.

And Douglas: No, of course I don’t think it’s a popularity contest … c’mon, man.

While I got ya’lls attention .. how ‘bout a shout out to the new kid … Kara’s reading this, ya know!

09/18/2008 03:38 PM

Ain’t this fun?

The bantering back and forth about various race drivers and their approach to the “sport”, ( as NA$CAR wants to call it anyway).

09/18/2008 04:52 PM

Matt, you missed the most important part of Douglas’ point. The lucky dog. Robby was racing to get the lucky dog. You may not like it but it is a reality of racing. I read an article someplace else today that quoted Jeff Burton about the chase drivers thinking they deserve special treatment. His take: the other 31 drivers deserve to be there as much as the chase drivers and they shouldn’t be expected to just give way to them. I guess his wise insight comes from having been on both sides of the chase.

09/18/2008 08:11 PM

Damn, Douglas. I think it’s time you heed your past advise to us and, QUIT WATCHING! If I hated a sport half as much as you appear to, I’d mow my lawn on Sunday. And I live in a Condo. I hate all that BF and the court jesters have done with the sport too. But jeez, take a Prozac.

09/18/2008 11:53 PM

I agree with Matt simply because a car multiple laps down has nothing to gain by holding a leader up. Nothing. It doesn’t matter if you can cost a lead car 2 seconds on the track if you’re never going to battle him for position anyway. You ARE, however, impeding on a battle between drivers that you have cost yourself a part in by getting lapped multiple times. It’s simply a respectable and honorable move. If there’s nothing to gain, why cost other drivers anything?

In fact, there is something to gain, and that is respect from the front runners. If Robby ever ends up out front, he needs to make the best of it. I think gaining respect from the likes of Jeff Gordon and other front runners would enhance his chances at making the most of a good opportunity if it comes his way.

09/19/2008 08:30 AM

ok! ok! This was started because of a Jeff Gordon issue, making yet more excuses for a bad run!

It involves a car a SINGLE LAP DOWN! Now all of a sudden we are bringing the history of NA$CAR into play and talking about cars “multiple” laps down, DIFFERENT SCENARIO FOLKS!

How easily, and convenient, we contaminate the scene!

And, now that I think about it, if Jeffie boy was that good, he would have had FIRST CHOICE on his pit selection! So in my estimation, because he was not “on the pole”, he in fact had to take whatever pit was available when his turn came! So, why pick the pit stall that he did?

Does not make sense to me! And that’s a Jeff selection, no one else’s!

Hey Jeff baby! “QUALIFY FIRST”, case closed! Qualify in the pack, you are then part of the pack!

And the way your running, might as well get used to that fact!

Oh, and in closing, I really do get a kick out of those folks that say if you don’t like it, just leave!

WHY? should I stop complaining and just slink away while the sport is being ruined, day in, day out, by Brian France and his cohorts!

Spineless, gutless people walk away and turn their backs!

ME? I choose to FIGHT!

Wrong is wrong!

Just watch a “race” on Sunday!

You cannot possibly tell me that is “good”! And worth the big buck admissions to watch!


P.S., thanks “cons1”, you get the picture!

09/19/2008 11:19 AM

It would be a lot better racing if there were 43 Robbie Gordons racing.

Matt T. -- FS Staff
09/19/2008 12:06 PM

Point taken, Douglas. So let’s start over:

Q: Who blocked [Jeff] Gordon in his stall at NHMS?

A: Well, they were at New Hampshire, the car in question was a lap down, and getting in the way of those running on the lead lap. Sounds like Robby Gordon to me… twice.

Really, this was a response that, as stated earlier, was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I like Robby because he is a true racer, but honestly he seems to find himself in the middle of a lot of dust-ups. Does that make for more entertainment for us? Of course, and I’m glad we have him around to keep us on our toes and spur along conversations such as these.

As for Jeff, I really think he got a little upset because of who was in front of him on pit road (past history with the driver). Was Robby to blame here? Not really, but because of the two drivers in question it became an issue.

Thanks for the good dialogue, folks.


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

Recent articles from Matt Taliaferro:

Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
2009 Season Review: Tony Stewart
2009 Season Review: Ryan Newman
Fanning the Flames: Closing the Inbox on the 2009 Season
Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities