The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Victory Lane's Ultimate "D'Oh!" Moment by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday April 9, 2009

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Fanning the Flames: Victory Lane's Ultimate "D'Oh!" Moment

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday April 9, 2009


Did you catch it? Did you see the irony there? You know, Victory Lane. Last weekend. Jeff Gordon emerges victorious to a shower of Pepsi, Power Ade, and confetti in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway, and as the post-race interview works its way through the first round of sponsor acknowledgments, a cell phone is thrust into his hand from off camera. It’s Mr. Hendrick calling — and he probably should take that seeing as he pays for, well, just about everything.

Jeff does so and says, “I got ya those six shooters, buddy! Hey boss …?”


“Ahh, we lost him, I don’t know what happened.”

“I don’t know what happened.” Don’t we all say that every time we drop a call? It’s like instinct. “Hey Mom … Mom?” Click. Redial. “Hey. I don’t know what happened, anyway …”

But I digress. Tell me, was there ever a moment when the suits at Sprint and Samsung cringed so hard? This was one of those promising moments gone shockingly askew, like something out of a Ben Stiller movie. Here you have the race winner of the Sprint Cup Series’ Samsung 500, and he’d just been handed the greatest marketing tool the two companies could have wanted. Regardless of what type of phone it was or what service was being used (trust me, it was Sprint), Jeff Frickin’ Gordon was about to use the products they market in Victory Lane! It was subliminal advertising at its best … so legitimate, so authentic, so unstaged — and it all amounted to nothing.

You saw it, right? You caught that, did you not? Tell me I wasn’t the only one.

I’ve been in the market for a new phone lately and found myself searching the net for some info on Monday. That’s when I found myself chuckling at Samsung’s website, where the slogan read, “Revolutionary technology. The most innovative designs. Features that fit your life. The future of mobile is here.” And Sprint’s, which had among others, “Sweet and Clear Coverage.”

Revolutionary technology? Clear coverage? Well, everywhere except in the nation’s fourth largest metropolitan area. I guess I’ll stick with the LG line and my Verizon coverage instead.

But thanks for the demo, Jeff. Oh, and congratulations on the win.

Alright, on to this week’s batch of questions. Be sure and stay strong over the off week — these are traditionally ones where the input slumps a bit. Here’s your link to reach me.

Sometimes a full-time ride in a lower series is the best option — but David Gilliland chose to go Cup racing instead after his upset Busch Series win three years ago.

Matt, do you think it would have been a better career move for David Gilliland to have signed with RCR for a full-time Busch ride the year after he won his first Busch race at Kentucky in June of 2006 instead of signing with Yates Racing for a Cup ride? I guess that is assuming the RCR full-time Busch ride wasn’t just a rumor.

RCR’s Busch program is always competitive and has full-time sponsors. Maybe he could have used a year or two in a lower series to grow and sharpen some of his racing skills. And finally, who knows, a couple years with RCR and he could have been sitting in RCR’s fourth Cup entry this year with Jack Daniel’s or General Mills as a sponsor.

It just seem like where his career is after first signing with a Yates team that had been struggling and now with underfunded TRG Motorsports, maybe a full-time, funded ride with RCR (even in a lower series) would have been the better career choice — although I’m sure since driving in Cup he has made some decent money, and I’m sure that plays into a decision.
— Adam Dodds

A: This is a tough one to answer, Adam, because it’s impossible to know how David Gilliland’s career would have been altered (for better or worse) had he taken a spot with RCR in the then-Busch Series. Of course, we’re speaking in hypotheticals here, because I don’t know that an offer was ever formally extended to Gilliland by Childress.

The thing about Childress’ Busch/Nationwide programs is that the seat never stays warm. Remember Timothy Peters or Tim McCreadie? How about Mardy Lindley or Brandon Miller? Each took turns there, as did Scott Wimmer in what I thought was a beautiful pairing of team-to-driver. None have stuck, though. In fact, the only driver to run a full season in a Childress machine in the Busch/Nationwide Series since 2006 (the year Gilliland would have made his supposed jump) was Clint Bowyer — and he did that as a cherry-picking Cup regular last season en route to a Nationwide title.

I just don’t think the job security there at RCR is good. Not that Gilliland found any more security in Cup, either. Although Yates stuck with him for two full seasons (2007 and ’08 after 15 races in ’06) he managed only four top 10s in 87 starts. Granted, the equipment wasn’t Tier 1 stuff, but that’s not a real flashy record.

Sometimes when the money and the opportunity are there, you have to go all carpe diem and make the most of it. Gilliland was a nobody that became a somebody the minute he won at Kentucky, and he’s parlayed it into one of only 43 spots with the Big Boys. It’s hard to second guess that.

Now that NASCAR is taking engines back to the R&D Center for teardown, I have to ask: Did everyone pass muster this week? And what’s up with that new rule? Just curious. Thanks!
— Jerry Wayne

A: NASCAR issued a very small and to-the-point release on its media site yesterday stating that (and I quote): “Post-race engine inspection for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5 has been completed and all is clear.”

I’m still not sure what precipitated the change from engine teardown of the top two finishers as well as one random entry being conducted at the track to the R&D Center in Concord, NC. According to the sanctioning body, the new measure was enacted to save money and enhance the inspection process.

I’m not sure how NASCAR shipping three engines back to Concord and then having to return them two days later is going to save anyone any money, but I’ll guarantee the process of inspection has been “enhanced.” Consider the grip tightened.

And lastly, a chance for Tina to vent. Hey, that’s what this column is for … I’ll just step back here and let her go:

Matt, I personally get tired at race time being so early nowadays. The season doesn’t get started good, and people are already calling for a championship winner. I have noticed this in the last several seasons and frankly … I’m sick of it! It takes all the fun out of it for me when that is what people concentrate on (not how a 39th-place starter ended up fourth — unless it’s someone everyone likes to begin with — and when that does happen, all of a sudden he’s the new hero of the week. Everyone kills themselves for interviews asking the same dumb** questions: “What happened man, you were great out there!”)*

Racing used to be a sport unto itself, it had different rules, different strategies, a different season. Now NASCAR is trying to ram the “let’s-be-like-baseball” down our throats … HELLO!!! WE ARE NOT BASEBALL!!! The ONLY way we are alike is that we both have seasons, that’s it.

Have a great week. That was the start of mine.
— Tina Pintor

Well, you’ll have a week to cool off, Tina. Serenity now. And to everyone: Have a great Easter weekend.

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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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04/09/2009 10:31 AM

About the comment on David Gilliland…. I am amazed at the amount of attention David is receiving now, when compared to last year with Yates Racing. He is ‘getting it done’ in a team that is incredibly underfunded, indeed even less funded than the Yates cars. I think he is being marketed much more effectively by TRG, than by Roush/Yates. However, I have to agree that the move to RYR was probably a smarter move than the Busch/Nationwide series at RCR. RCR has great cars in that series, but David would have been shuffled around much like the other drivers in the last few years.

04/09/2009 10:53 AM

Regarding David Gilliland, I agree that TRG was probably the best choice as opposed to remaining with Yates or running full-time Busch in a revolving seat RYR. DG and TRG are earning an amazing amount of respect and admiration from fans for their work ethic and “can-do” attitude. David has proven he can run up front with the right car under him, and full sponsorship can’t be far away.

04/09/2009 11:33 AM

Seems to me David was in the top 10 spot a few times last year with darn good fast YATES cars, but just couldn’t hold on to it.
We will just have to see if David can hold on to a top spot this year. Lots of Luck David. I think you will need it.

04/09/2009 12:11 PM

David is a class act and has found a team that fully understands being proactive in PR & Media. Most teams rely on their performance to capture PR & Media opportunities for their sponsors. Drivers who have created their brand & have been successful in merchandising, etc. understand that there is a balance between performance and marketing. Being proactive in marketing & not reactive makes a huge difference. The way of doing business is changing – bigger teams are going to find themselves in big trouble very soon… this is already evident with sponsors like AFLAC who look to sell off their inventory or Dewalt who wants a partners to take a few races off their wallet (to name a few)… Sponsors want their dollars going to support their business plan and not new planes & big houses. Days of greed are over. TRGM has a model that will deliver what a sponsor wants / needs provided they are able to survive the next few weeks. They will find themselves in demand come 3rd qtr review & commitments from current, as well as non-endemic marketing partners. This will enable the team to hire faster & stronger over the wall crews, etc. Then David & TRGM will find themselves at the front of the pack more consistently. How do we know this??? Look at the NASCAR loop / timing sheets. At Texas, David was running equal times with the the top 3 cars for the entire race. However, lost ground in the pits. (ZOIKS!)
…this is just my opinion.

04/09/2009 01:07 PM

Hahaha… about Gordo’s dropped call. I saw that too and immediately thought of the Sprint suits snapping their buttocks like Jack Black in Nacho Libre.

04/09/2009 01:09 PM

David is in a great spot. As stated in a previous comment, David is a class act. He is now with another class act in TRG. What David, TRG and Slugger have done this year with the very limited resources available to them is remarkable to say the least. Sponsorship will come. The right company will seize this opportunity. What a bargain they will get. TRG understands both business and racing. I believe David and TRG will be around for a long time.

MJR in Springfield VA
04/09/2009 01:47 PM

With regards to the dropped cell call, I had just taken a sip of a nice cold beer… it’s not pretty when it comes out your nose. I almost choked to death laughing my rearend off. Classic, a true classic.

zach :)
04/09/2009 04:19 PM

David Gilliland is an AWESOME driver, he just needs a good car under him and you have a top 10.

04/09/2009 07:15 PM

David Gilliland has a ton of talent, and it was not taken advantage of at Yates Racing. Yates struggled with sponsors and 2nd-rate equipment. I think David gained a lot while working with them, but it was time for him to move on and find something else. The job with TRG seems a great fit — I wish him the best and I know we’ll see him in the winner’s circle at some point.

04/09/2009 11:06 PM

David Gililand had two opportunities and made his choice. Since I’m not big on what if’s, it is my contention that he made the right choice. With RCR. he could have been in and out the same season, or still stuck in a lower series with no COT at all. When Kevin Buckler choose David, he realized the vast difference between the two cars and knew that Gilliland had the most COT. experience of any available driver. And his instincts were right, as what this small under funded start up team has been able to accomplish with Gilliland at the wheel has been nothing short of miraculous. If he is able to accomplish so much with so little, its a sure bet that he will be leading the field with a competitive car and proper funding. A path to success is always filled uncertainties, especially in racing. But true talent always has a way to prevail. There is no question about Gilliland’s talent. Its just a matter of time for the rest to come together.

04/10/2009 03:02 AM

TRG,David Gilliland and Slugger Labbe are all true to the core racers, they are enjoying what they are doing so the performance will come.David got a raw deal at yates. he went in under impression that M@Ms was the sponsor he would be working with. he is a down to earth family man and a great Representative for a family company. TRG is a family type organization who care about racing more than getting the big bucks, fancy over priced bobbles. they love racing and it shows. I hope corporate America can see what TRG and David Gilliland have to offer and give a great team the resources to shut up the nay-sayers up


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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