The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Unpopular Views On The Week That Was In NASCAR by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday February 26, 2009

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Fanning the Flames: Unpopular Views On The Week That Was In NASCAR

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday February 26, 2009


WARNING: You are not going to agree with what you read in the following three paragraphs. Not many of you, anyway. See, I didn’t think the California race was as bad as most of you out there. There was an exciting battle for the win, a pass for the lead late in the pits, and four-wide racing scattered about the race track. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Darlington ’03… but it wasn’t Indy ’08, either. All things considered, I’ll take it over the Oscars.

Also, I didn’t mind the start time. I know that’s been such a sore spot amongst the masses the last two weeks, but I was able to go to church, get a good lunch in, run some errands, clean up a bit… and was ready to race at 5:30 CST. No worries here.

Lastly, I’ve read some pretty scathing opinions about the Darrell Waltrip / Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pre-race interview on FOX. To the critics, I say: Get over it! Would we have preferred FOX not talk to him about the Daytona wreck at all in its five-hour pre-race show? And what would any of you do different than send Waltrip? How about Starched-Collar Myers (that would have been uncomfortable just watching) or maybe Krista Voda … yeah, that would have been just as appropriate, seeing as Junior just opens up to every reporter in the garage. And let’s not forget DW is a counsel of sorts to Junior — the kid has said so himself. The chat was laid back, it was honest, it was two racers talking racin’ — not Sam Donaldson vs. Ronald Reagan circa 1983.

Whewww … thank you, I feel much better. I’ve needed that release for some time… now, it’s time let me know what you think! This is your place to be heard. Here’s your link to do just that; and without further ado, here’s this week’s discussion:

Matt, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Todd Berrier as a crew chief? Although I think he does an admirable job, I’m left to wonder if it is time he and Kevin Harvick part ways. Seems like more often than not the changes on the car he makes throughout the race don’t always help — and sometimes flat out hurt it. They’ve been together awhile, and I’m sure that means something — but maybe it’s time for some new blood on that team.

In my opinion, before this season I would have loved to see Harvick and Shane Wilson reunited; they were pretty unstoppable when they were paired together in the Busch Series. That said, I think Bowyer has one heck of a crew chief this year!
— Adam Dodds

A: A crew chief once told me that when all the tools are in place, you should be competing for a championship. I think this little nugget of advice fits the No. 29 team. That whole Richard Childress Racing organization may be just a tick behind Hendrick and Roush in the grand scheme of things, but I’m of the belief that one of those cars — that being Harvick’s — is capable of rising above and throwing down a serious gauntlet in front of the Nos. 48 and 99.

Though there have been many disappointments for the No. 29 team, there remains potential for Kevin Harvick with Todd Berrier on the pit box.

In my research for the preseason racing annual I publish with Athlon Sports each offseason, two rival crew chiefs had two different opinions about the No. 29 team. One says, “Todd Berrier is one of the best. They were strong in the Chase, and I could see them getting off to a fast start. If anybody at RCR can win a championship, it’s Harvick.”

Check one for Berrier. Another, though, isn’t quite so high on him:

“Harvick’s got the whole package, and he’d win more than he does if he had more shots at it.”

Did you catch that last part? That tells me Harvick’s not being given what he needs, and on race day that’s the job of the crew chief. However, if I’m RC, I give the duo another season together. If he posts numbers like last tear (namely, zero wins) I may have to pull the trigger… until then, I still like the pairing.

Oh, and the Shane Wilson / Clint Bowyer combo will win some races down the road. Just remember they’ll need time to gel before they’re consistently good; but Childress isn’t one to swap crew chiefs prematurely.

Who was the driver with the least number of career Cup wins when he won his first Cup championship? Conversely, who was the driver with the most number of career Cup wins when he won his first Cup championship? I wasn’t able to find these answers with a quick internet search, so I turn to you, with more experience than I. Thank you.
— Kevin

A: Kev knows my affinity for stat-snooping. Here goes:

It only stands to reason that the least number of career wins would come from a champion in the early days of the sport; and sure enough, the answer is Bill Rexford. Rexford won the 1950 Grand National championship (in its second year in existence) with one career win under his belt. The New York state native beat Fireball Roberts by just over 100 points, having raced in 17 of the season’s 19 events. Oddly enough, that year marked Rexford’s only career win, as he would compete in only 36 races in his short NASCAR career.

Benny Parsons is second on the list, and leads all modern era drivers (or rather, trails all modern-era drivers) in this category. BP only had two career wins to his credit when his mangled Chevy carried him to a Cup at Rockingham in ’73.

As for who had the most career wins when he earned his first title… I believe you would’ve guessed this one had you thought about it long enough. Bobby Allison ran his first NASCAR race in 1961, and between then and 1983, he finished second in the standings five times, racking up a total of 79 wins before hitting paydirt. He won this dubious award going away; if you’re wondering, Bobby Isaac sits second on the list at just 32 wins.

And last but not least, I kind of figured this one was coming this week:

Hi Matt. My question is if anyone has won three races in a row to start the season? And what other drivers have won two races to start [the season]? Thank you!
— Karen Collins

A: This was a trivia question in the Frontstretch Newsletter this week, but we’ll cover it anyway. The answer to who has won three races in a row to start the season is… no one. Nobody. Nadda. Zilch. Matthew Roy Kenseth now stands upon the precipice of history! OK, that may be overdoing it a little — but yeah, this would be the first time ever if he can come out of Vegas on top.

Besides M.R. Kenseth, there have been four to go Pick 2 on us. Of course, media outlets all week have been saying that “Kenseth is the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 1997 …” so we know that one. David Pearson did it in 1976 at Riverside and Daytona. Bob Welborn won two of his nine career Grand National races at Fayetteville and Daytona in ’59; and Marvin Panch, by God, did it in 1957 at Lancaster and Concord.

Thanks for the time. See you down below.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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02/26/2009 01:57 AM

OMG!!! I’m pretty sure this is the first positive article I’ve ever read on FS. At the very least the first positive one in 14 races (going back to last year). And you didn’t pick on the submitters. Bravo, bravo!

02/26/2009 05:26 AM

I don’t think i could call any part of the Fontana race exciting . What you might be referring to is the last 35 laps when the talking heads in the booth , and the worst tv director in all of sports tried to convince us that there really was a battle for the lead . There wasn’t .
I’m one of the fans who couldn’t care less if anyone ever interviewed Earnhardt Jr. about the Daytona incident . As with everything FOX , the interview was breathlessly hyped , but pretty short on substance .

M. B. Voelker
02/26/2009 08:10 AM

After reading your colleagues whining, I could hug you for being so positive.

Except for the rare chance to see Jeff Gordon driving desperate, Fontana was a snoozer. It usually is. But the degree of moaning and griping was far, far out of proportion and its really getting on my nerves.

So thanks for being upbeat.

02/26/2009 08:30 AM

I tune out celebrities like Jr. He is an average driver who became famous for his name. Like Paris Hilton, he is now famous for being famous. The Waltrip brothers are famous for their big mouths. They are the modern Howard Cosell and I hope it doesn’t last forever.

This year’s race was better than usual because I only fell sound asleep twice. My wife was supposed to wake me up but she also fell victim to the “excitement”.

02/26/2009 09:29 AM

Not only was it better than Indy ’08, it was better than Daytona ’09.

02/26/2009 09:35 AM

Gee Matt,

If you liked the finish at Calif. Then let me guess. You also absolutely love the finish of your average F1 race. They also sometimes feature passes in the pits. Then a strung out parade to the finish with no passing. In fact, upon further thought, I think I prefer them to NA$CAR myself. That is until David Hobbs,(probably the best announcer in motorsports) & Bob Varsha replace the idiots the networks thrust upon us.

02/26/2009 10:33 AM

Amen to that . Hobbs and Varsha far outclass anything FOX has . Might even throw in Steve Matchette .

02/26/2009 11:11 AM

It is good to see someone say something positive about the race. California can be boring at times as everyone knows, but this race was actually not that bad. It was not nearly as boring as the Nationwide and Trucks races were. I think some of your colleagues were prepared to write a negative article about the race regardless of what happened because of their disdain for the track and the state of California. It is good to see someone gave the race an honest chance. About F1 the announcers are way better than any of the Nascar announcing teams and F1 can certainly be boring at times but it is always a great show when it is raining. It is funny how rain ruins a Nascar weekend but adds to the excitement of F1.

M. B. Voelker
02/26/2009 11:31 AM

That’s support for my contention that easy racing conditions make for lousy races while difficult conditions make for good races.

F1 is dull because the cars are too perfect and its too easy for them (taking their traction control away last year seems to have helped). When it rains they have to WORK to drive them (and there is interesting strategy going on about which tires to use when), so the racing gets better.

Joe W.
02/26/2009 11:33 AM

I also want to say thank you for writing something positive. I love to read about Nascar and the races. Even though I do not agree with all the changes, I still enjoy the racing. The finish to this race was good. You could tell how bad Jeff Gordon wanted the win by how hard he was driving. Matt was able to hold him off but that does not mean it was not fun to watch. There were points in the race that were less than spectacular, but overall I thought it was a pretty decent race.

02/26/2009 02:58 PM

I can usually find something positive to say about any race just because I love racing but I still have a sore spot and remain among the masses not in favor of the late start times. We don’t all work 9-5 and because of my work hours I’m getting up for work when some of the 9-5er’s are just getting to bed so I have to miss most of these late races if I want to get up for work in the morning!! But on the bright side, I still have a job and I’m so grateful for that. There’s usually a silver lining in every cloud if you look for it.

02/28/2009 11:24 AM

Isn’t this Junior bashing by the likes of “Ken” getting a little old? Get some new material for pete’s sake. The same stuff about the last name, etc. The best point Junior made in the DW interview was about people who don’t “get” his popularity. So what if you don’t get it. That’s YOUR problem but this constant bashing is getting ridiculous. After a while, it says more about the basher than the bashee and his fans.

Matt, you’re right. THEY need to get over it.


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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