The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Letarte's Strategy Flaw, What's Stuck In Kahne's Craw, And Danica's Last Hurrah by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday March 4, 2010

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Something a co-worker and I found after wandering 17 degrees and 25 minutes off target in the dangerous and productivity-killing miracle that is YouTube. Enjoy. The sad thing is, I remembered every word to the song. Sad, yet awesome.

OK, you know the drill. Send me your thoughts. I’m all caught up and need some ammo.

Two tires or four is like a charge or a blocking call in basketball. It’s the toughest call to make. [Steve] Letarte was faced with the decision and made it. Fine. But the reason Gordon will never get the results he once did is because the crew chief on the other side of the shop will make a call and get it right every time. Chad and Jimmie are in another zip code and probably in everyone’s heads.

Tough way for my man Gordon to end the race, but leading 219 laps and having the best car all day gives me reason for hope. Hope that he can win the prize for best of the rest to JJ.
— Tony Williams, Indianapolis, Ind.

A: Never did I think I’d see the day when Jeff Gordon fans had a defeatist attitude.

Look, I know hindsight is 20/20, and I’ll agree that the two or four call is often tougher than Red Shad PowerBait or Pumpkinseed. But my first thought while watching was how could the other crew chiefs not know Knaus was strapping four on? Think about it: how many times have we seen Johnson get four fresh shoes late in a race and drive through the field with his hair on fire and end up in Victory Lane?

A pit call by crew chief Chad Knaus gave Jimmie Johnson yet another Sprint Cup win.

Of course the No. 48 is taking four … they always do! And they most always cash the big check shortly thereafter.

The fact the No. 24 didn’t account for that, and considering that their car could have restarted fourth or fifth and still gotten by a guy like Harvick with two tires (then held off Johnson, all things being equal), I have to call them out for blown strategy on that one.

Hi Matt! Thanks to you and all the FS writers for the second to none coverage. With that out of the way, what did you make of Kasey Kahne’s comments in Las Vegas about RPM? He doesn’t sound like a happy camper. RPM should get the shop in order because he sounds like a driver with one foot out the door. Any hint as to where he would go? Thanks again!
— Addie H., Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A: I love it when they send a message through the media. For those that missed his comments this past weekend, let’s recap. During media availability last Friday, Kahne addressed the rough start to his season and where he felt his organization was.

“Our cars are good,” he said. “I wouldn’t say my car is any different than it was last year. I think the Ford engine runs a little better than what we had last year and that’s nice, but as far as balance and going and leading laps or running first, second, third — we’re not there.”

“Hopefully, we can get there with the group of people that we have and working with everybody from Ford. The Ford engine is better, but that’s it. We have a lot of people there. You’ve seen how well Roush has run in the past, and we’ve run really well at times at RPM; so, hopefully, we can all put it together and figure out how to make some better race cars.”

Color him underwhelmed, huh? After all, this RPM/RFR alliance was supposed to make all the difference for Kahne. Wasn’t it?

Kahne also repeated his stance that he’s in a wait-and-see mode in regards to his 2011 plans, saying, “It’s something I want to know during the season, for sure, but it’s kind of nice to be able to sit back, look, and watch the performance of our team, watch the performance of the Chevrolets, the Toyotas, the Fords, and the Dodges to just kind of see where everybody is at and make that decision.”

“We have plenty of time to do it, so it’s pretty nice to be where we’re at right now, I think, with that stuff it gives everybody a fair shot and to kind of know the direction.”

Message delivered. He’s not sold that a RPM/RFR alliance can deliver the goods just yet, because to this point, it hasn’t.

Honestly, I’d be shocked if he were at RPM next year. Kahne is a driver capable of not only running for, but winning a championship. When he says, “I wouldn’t say my car is any different than it was last year” it’s the equivalent of saying, “We couldn’t beat Hendrick then, and we’re not able to now.”

As for where he’d go. Shoot, just about anywhere he wanted I suppose.

Hey Matt. One week the drivers were all saying they didn’t want Daytona repaved because the bumps and abrasive surface with lack of grip made racing there so much fun. The next week, the drivers are all saying how much they love Fontana because it’s so smooth and wide. Seems to me that Cali could use a lot more ‘character.’ What do you think?
— Sal B

A: I think it’s a two-fold issue. The first being that the drivers don’t want Daytona to become another Talladega, which it would if the track was resurfaced. They like that they have some sense of driver control at Daytona even though it has all the familiar nuances of a plate track. At Talladega, they feel they are at the complete and total mercy of the draft, and with Daytona’s bumps, at least some of that is nullified.

Issue No. 2 is simply a matter of having something to complain about. Now I’m not trying to dog out these guys, because we all find a way to do the same, in some capacity, in our chosen fields. But how many times have we heard that they want more downforce to help handling (you’re excluded, Carl), yet in the same breath, they complain that the cars are too aero-dependent — a direct consequence of front-end downforce, or a lack thereof?

That said Sal, yes, I think California is in dire need of more character. Like blowing the current configuration up and erecting a 3/4-mile short track. Not because I carry the disdain others do for ACS, but because I think the circuit needs more variety and Fontana’s track is on life support.

You guys complain every week about Danica’s coverage in the Mirror Driving column. But don’t you know you’re increasing her coverage when you talk about again and again? Not one of you all seem to like her or the circumstances that landed her in NA$CAR. I’m no Danica fan, but I think the obvious way to handle it is by not addressing her when there are plenty of other things to talk about!
— J.T.

A: I could argue that an admitted non-Danica fan could heed his own advice and write to me about one of those other things.

Thanks for your time this week. Pray FOX doesn’t go to a commercial with 20 to go and a fight for the lead brewin’ this Sunday, but if it does, could we get the old Levi Garrett spot and not that “NAPA Know How” stinker we’ve been subjected to for three weeks now?

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Kevin in SoCal
03/04/2010 03:50 PM
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Why do you have a picture of Jimmie Johnson’s win at Fontana, but the caption refers to his win at Las Vegas?

FunkyD
03/04/2010 05:39 PM
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The pix of Johnson are generic, just like his personality

RaceInsider
03/04/2010 08:55 PM
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Just like I’ve been sayong .. when Jimmy Johnson talks, you almost can’t see Chad Knaus’s lips moving. JJ betterpray his crew chief never gets hurt !! RI

mkrcr
03/04/2010 09:12 PM
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If SHR can show well, and not have a sophomore slump, I think Kasey would be attracted to a move and would be great fit for the often denied third team. RPM will never provide quality equipment but Kahne could be huge boost for SHR. Lord knows, Newman will never do 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