The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday November 12, 2009

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Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday November 12, 2009


I hear all the time that many of the races on the Cup circuit need to be shorter. Well, you get your wish this weekend. The Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 is actually only 312 laps, and on a one-mile track, that makes for a pretty tidy show. Why is “500” listed in the race’s title, you ask? Because the distance at Phoenix is measured in kilometers, not miles. Why kilometers, you prod? I have no idea.

And that’s not a good thing for an answer man.

The point is I think Phoenix, with its short distance, tight confines, differing corners, and backstretch dogleg makes for a great change of pace. Factor in that we run at night here in the Spring and during the day in the Fall so setups react differently, and you’ve got a cool little venue for Round 9 to play out. In fact — and this has not proven to be a popular opinion — it’s one of the most underrated stops on the circuit.

So PIR is the place, which means the end is in sight. Just hang with me for a couple more weeks, and we can take a breather (and I think we all need one). Here’s your link to contact me … remember, it’s your column more than mine, and we’ve been through a lot together this year. Find your center, hear nothing, feel nothing, and be the keyboard.

Any news on how Penske will handle the Pat Tryson situation now? Could a crew chief that just won a race be gone in the next two weeks to give Kurt time to develop chemistry with a new guy? Or by now, is it too late and they will play the season out with Pat?
— Brandon Butler

A: Mr. Penske addressed this after the race at Texas on Sunday. Without further ado, I give you The Captain:

“I think from a crew chief perspective, we’re focused on Phoenix and Homestead. Pat is fully committed. We got some great guys internally. Right now, we’re looking at internal candidates and external.”

“For one thing, we’re not going to announce what we’re going to do until after the season, right, Pat?”

To which Tryson replied, “We’re going to go finish it off.”

There ya go. In other crew chief news …

Steve Addington’s two-year run of success with Kyle Busch should be more than enough to get him a top-level crew chief job in Cup once again for 2010.

Like many people, I was shocked that Steve Addington was fired from the No. 18 team. My question is where do you think he will end up, or will he remain at Gibbs as a Nationwide crew chief? Addington seems too talented with too good of a resume to not get a call from a good Cup team. Am I reading too much into his success with Kyle, or is he really a hot property now?
— Addie H., Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A: Conventional wisdom says he’s a pretty hot commodity at the moment … he led that team to 12 victories over the last two seasons, after all. And no, I don’t think you’re reading too much into anything. Even Kyle’s older brother stopped short of endorsing Addington a couple weeks back, although that’s not to say he’s the next in line to replace Pat Tryson.

You also have to figure that Addington could make a lot more on the open Cup market than being shuffled back into the Nationwide ranks, but he’s said he most likely won’t make a decision (or at least announce one) until the season is finished.

My honest opinion: It’d be surprising if he didn’t accept an offer from a full-time Cup team. And a pretty good one at that.

Jimmy seems pretty pi*ed at Hornish. Sam should watch his back the rest of the way, or he will need to call his sponsor! Reutimann might want to stay out of his way too.*
— Maurice W., Daly City, Calif.

A: Oh for the love … folks, it’s “IE” not “Y”! And yeah, I’d imagine Jimmie was pretty PO’d, although I don’t think Reutimann played as big a role as some are making out. Hornish’s back end was sliding out before the 00 ever got there.

Now “Zipp-yng” over to the Rookie of the Year battle:

So random because no one talks about it, but how out of hand is the Rookie of the Year standings? I can never find updated standings online. Thank you.
— Enos, Richardson, Tex.

A: Logano 237 — Speed 201. That may look close, but it’s not. The ROTY standings aren’t based solely on race points awarded, but on a scale that awards qualifying, a rookie’s 17 best finishes (scored on a 10-9-8-7, etc. scale) and bonus points for top-10 showings. A final portion of the scoring system is rather subjective: A panel of officials and insider types meet at season’s end to determine, on a 10-1 scale, how professional the driver has been throughout the season on the track, in the garage, with the media, etc.

Joey’s cuffed ‘em & stuffed ‘em, Enos.

And finally, I was sent this little jewel unprovoked. This is it, in its raw form. I’m still not sure what question I asked, but “Dorf on NASCAR” here seemed to have an answer:

Let`s see—————mmmmmmmmm $$$$$ from SPONSORS???????????
— Dick Zielsdorf

Thanks, Dick. Give Tim Conway my regards.

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Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
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Kevin in SoCal
11/12/2009 02:00 AM

Matt said: “Because the distance at Phoenix is measured in kilometers, not miles. Why kilometers, you prod? I have no idea.”

I was just in Phoenix and Tucson over the weekend on vacation, and I cant answer that one either. I do know that Hwy 19 from Tucson to the Mexican border has kilometer markers instead of mile markers. Perhaps Arizona was a test state for the Metric system back when the whole country was supposed to switch over? Is there someone here from Arizona who can help?

Several Truck races are measured in kilometers instead of miles, and the Cup race at Sonoma is also measured in kilometers.

The Turnip!
11/12/2009 07:49 AM

Hey Matt, your comment/answer: “A: Oh for the love … folks, it’s “IE” not “Y”! And yeah, I’d imagine Jimmie was pretty PO’d, although I don’t think Reutimann played as big a role as some are making out. Hornish’s back end was sliding out before the 00 ever got there.”

Gee, I hope Amy reads this, she may have her “idiots” mixed up!

11/12/2009 08:18 AM

I read it, Turnip, and I stand by my original assessment. Yes, the No. 77 DID get loose in the corner. What the 00 did (and I also stand by it being a stupid move on lap 3!) was try to fit his car in where there wasn’t room, taking it three wide, when he knew the 77 was loose. Hornish might have had a chance to save it until Reutimann ran into him. If he had gotten loose and spun anyway, it would have been an unfortunate racing incident so early in a race. But what Reutimann did wasn’t unfortunate, it was really, really, not smart racing. IMO, it doesn’t matter WHO was on the top of that mess, oint leader or 43rd in points, he got taken out by a driver not using his head.

The Turnip!
11/12/2009 08:55 AM

Oh Amy, (thanks for the response by the way), but here we go again, the drivers are driving an unwieldy car, a car you never ever know when it’s going to break loose, a driver “see’s an opening, subjective at best for sure, and tries, actually HOPES! the car is going to stick! It doesn’t, oh well, so? DRIVER? or CAR?

Once again, if the car was a “real” race car, then we may be having a different conversation!

But to blame an “idiotic” driver for trying to improve a position, after three (3) laps, leads me to ask the question???


3 laps?, 20 laps?, 50 laps? 100 laps? Never?

Just looking for that magic number?

And, by the way, (and I am too lazy to do the exact research), but seems to me, that good old JJ himself took out a fellow driver during the mid-part of the year!

So does JJ fall into the “IDIOT” category?

Or actually, wasn’t it Tony Stewart that was the one that directly “launched” Newman at Talladega?

Seems to me we have lots of IDIOTS at NA$CRAP races these days!

MMMM, or is it, “THE CAR”?

The Turnip!
11/12/2009 09:17 AM

Misc. Info re: 500K race!

This was an arbitrary decision by NA$CRAP to “advertise” the races as a 500K event, more eye catchy, than say it is the “CHECKER’S 312”!

The use of the number “500” has more impact, so yet another NA$CRAP sleight of hand!

But then again NA$CRAP has been misleading us for a very long time! On many fronts!

Phil Allaway
11/12/2009 09:35 AM

My guess on why they use kilometers in Phoenix is based on the fact that this race used to be the Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway. In 1977, both of the races at Riverside switched from miles to kilometers in order to make the race length more sane (yes, they ran a 500 mile road race prior to then). Besides, I think 312 laps is a good distance at PIR.

11/12/2009 11:38 AM

Hey Amy, you go girl. Remember Jr saying Reut couldn’t hold his line? Well he did it again. He takes a loose car, drives it too deep into the corner, slides up, and whoever is on his outside is in trouble. And JJ wasn’t too smart either. That’s a bad corner to take chances with either Hornish or Reut being there. He should have taken his time in getting to the front.

11/12/2009 12:42 PM

Time after time we see Johnson spinning out when other cars just in front or just in back have no problem at all . Johnson didn’t crash because of any other car . That was all over with before he came careening across the race track into traffic . He crashed because he lost control .

11/12/2009 12:47 PM

And truth be told , we’ve seen Johnsons’ temper tantrums in the past when he thinks hes been wronged . It looked to me like he gassed it coming off of the wall to intentionally ram a competitor who he blamed for the initial contact .
That wasn’t much of a hit he took into the outside wall . Why not keep it up there out of the way like everyone else does ?

Don Mei
11/12/2009 01:23 PM

I wish they would convert all the events to kilometers and keep the names as they are. That way the damn things wouldnt keep going on…and on…and on…

The Turnip!
11/12/2009 03:33 PM

MMMM, hey Ginger, to quote you: “Hey Amy, you go girl. Remember Jr saying Reut couldn’t hold his line?”

You refer to a “Jr.”. who might that be?

What does he know about passing? The only Jr. I know of is usually holed up at the back of the pack! Not sure what kind of “expertise” he could offer any other drivers!

And, isn’t it a strange fact here, that all one has to do is mention a name, in this case, poor ole’ Reuti! And they come out of the woodwork to jump on the bandwagon, with “expert” in tow (Jr.)!

How funny!

11/12/2009 03:50 PM

Supposedly, Reutimann’s car showed no evidence that he hit Hornish. He said that he did lift and that he did not know whether he hit Hornish.

11/12/2009 07:04 PM

With all the money Jr. is bringing into HMS, some of it should be used to hire Addington for Jr. Marybeth

The Turnip!
11/13/2009 09:29 AM

Hey Marybeth, just what would a new crew chief for Jr. accomplish?


Be easier and more productive to replace the driver than keep changing, err, blaming, crew chiefs on the 88!


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Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
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Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities