The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Mikey's Tweet, Bruton's Shades, And Singing A Unique Command by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday June 17, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Mikey's Tweet, Bruton's Shades, And Singing A Unique Command

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday June 17, 2010


This week’s race at Michigan didn’t give us much to talk about, but there were plenty of quotes, tweets, and song ‘n’ dance routines to get the faithful fired up.

So let’s not waste any time. Here’s your link. Give me a shout this week, and I’ll get you in next Thursday.

I’m watching [the] race on TNT right now, and TNT has not shown the debris that brought out a caution while they were in commercial with about 20 laps to go. They come back from commercial and the cars are hitting pit road; it’s obvious we’re under caution, but there is NO MENTION of why!!!! In fact, I’m just GUESSING it’s a debris caution, because there’s no wrecked cars on the track.

WTH Matt!?!?
— Jeff Ward, Columbia, S.C.

A: Boy, this was an interesting as-it-happened observational email, and this issue, along with the James/Sandler command (more on that later) has been the talk of the week. I honestly don’t know why TNT never told us why the race went to caution, Jeff, so I can’t answer that.

The hot potato that was thrust into the foreground happened hours later, though, when Michael Waltrip expressed his belief, via Twitter, that The last caution today was well thought out by NASCAR. Everyone had pitted and no one was adversely effected by the caution. The 100,000…

Plus fans that drove to MIS to be entertained I’m sure appreciated the late race reset. Crews had to make the right calls on pit road and…

Drivers had to get up on the wheel to close the deal. What’s wrong w/that? Thank you for buying a ticket and gas and a hotel and ect ect..

What’s wrong with that, Mikey? Well, that one of the most vocal and visible team owners in the sport, as well as one of its most recognizable television personalities, believes that the sanctioning body is justified in manipulating the outcome of a race is appalling. That NASCAR would do so is bad enough, but to hear a representative of the sport publicly support such actions speaks to a level of pandering I’ve not seen.

Timely debris cautions are once again the talk of the NASCAR community as both Michael Waltrip and Denny Hamlin voiced their opinions on it this weekend.

Now, was there really debris on the track? That’s another question altogether. According to a few drivers there was, and according to a few others there was not. NASCAR President Mike Helton played the role of Switzerland, stating that the control tower will always err on the side of caution.

But I think race winner Denny Hamlin may have had the most telling quote of the weekend, one that exposes a reality we all wished was not true:

“I understand this is a show business,” Hamlin said. “No, I didn’t see any debris if that’s what you’re asking, but we typically get them every single week. I’m not going to say it’s accepted, but what can you do?”

What can you do? I guess we can all finally admit that, thanks to Waltrip’s peak behind the curtain, this really is just show business these days.

Matt, call me petty, but I wasn’t a fan of Sandler and James’ command to start engines. I felt kind of like they were poking fun at us. Maybe it’s an overreaction, but I can do without the theatrics.
— Rebecca H., Covington, Ky.

A: OK, Rebecca, I guess when the race is boring, we have to find something to complain about. Look, was it corny? Yeah, but we’re talking Adam Sandler and Kevin James here. You expected … what, exactly? It’s not like they went all Roseanne Barr on the National Anthem.

Matt, if it is true that the Ford Mustang will come to Cup, will Ford’s NNS model change since they are rolling out the Mustang at Daytona? And is it true that the other manufacturers will bring pony cars to the Cup Series? Especially Chevy and the Camaro nameplate. And would Toyota, without a pony car, stick with the Camry?

I think I speak for a lot of NASCAR fans when I day we’d welcome racier-looking cars that resembled what you can drive on the street. Thanks.
— Rachel Dyers

A: It looks like we’re heading that way, Rachel, and the new noses of the cars are being wind tunneled as we speak. The manufacturers have been troubled by the lack of identity that the original Car of Tomorrow provided — or failed to provide — since that fateful day in Bristol back in 2007. Couple that with a fan reaction that has been close to mutinous, and NASCAR finally had to cave to the wishes of its two biggest supporters. Of course, the sport won’t admit it was wrong by introducing the different-by-decal mounts, so we’ll have to live with what Cup Director John Darby told

“We have a new lower nose that the Cup garage will run in 2011 that’s a lot sexier than what we have now. It helps eliminate the metal rods, the splitter braces. It has a little more shape to it that will allow the manufacturers to, through the use of graphics, which they’ve been so successful with, to really make the Cup cars a lot nicer-looking in the front.”

“The spoiler and the long quarter panels kind of fixed the backs. They look pretty normal now, or at least [like] what our fans are used to and that’s been well accepted. If we can bring that type of appeal to the front of the car, I think we’ll be OK.”

That’s about as close to an admission of wrongdoing as we’ll get. And while the safety aspects of the CoT are commendable, the body design can now officially be classified as a total flop. Thus, we should see Mustangs, Chargers, Impalas, and Camrys in the Cup Series with somewhat identifiable characteristics in the next two-three years.

Whether Chevy ever comes to its collective senses and switches from my grandma’s Impala to my cool older brother’s Camaro remains to be seen. There’s a reason GM is in such bad shape, you know, and this Impala/Camaro thing highlights those reasons.

While I’m on a Chevy rant, allow me to publicly rue the day that I signed the papers on my lemon of a truck, a 2005 Z71 Chevy Colorado. I’m the one that needs bailing out after that purchase.

What’s up with Bruton Smith’s glasses???
— Ben W., Wilmington, N.C.

A: They accentuate his unbuttoned collared shirt look.

Matt, I’m saying Montoya wins this week. He’s due, and of course it is a road course. Before his win in ’08 at Sonoma, was McMurray the last driver to win in the (No.) 42 car? And did anyone win in the car between Kyle Petty and McMurray? I miss that Texaco paint job! Thanks!
— Fletcher

A: First, for the housekeeping: Montoya’s win came in ’07, not ’08, but that’s not what you’re asking.

Petty won in the No. 42 — a number made famous by his grandfather Lee — on six occasions from 1990-95. Joe Nemechek then took the reins and won in the No. 42 in 1999 at Loudon, driving Felix Sabates’ old BellSouth Chevy. Sadly, after Kenny Irwin’s 17 races in the car in 2000, the number was shelved until McMurray drove the Texaco Havoline-sponsored Chip Ganassi Dodge from 2003-05.

The catch: McMurray did not win in the 42. He grabbed that unlikely Charlotte victory in his second career Cup start driving in relief of Sterling Marlin, who had a “broke neck,” in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge (that’s the paint scheme I miss, Fletcher).

Then came Casey Mears for a winless season (2006) before Montoya.

Long story short: Lee Petty, Jim Paschal, Richard Petty, Marvin Panch, Kyle Petty, Joe Nemechek, and Juan Pablo Montoya have won in the number, in that order.

Thanks for sticking around until the end. I know I was a little tough on ol’ Mikey this week, so just to prove there’s no hard feelings, I give you one of my favorite clips from This Week in NASCAR for our video link of the week. I sure miss the show. Spank that monkey, Mikey.

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Bad Wolf
06/17/2010 01:48 AM

OOhhhh, I can’t wait for the new Nascar approved pony car GRAPHICS for the uber cool lowered spec nose. Nascar is saved!

Carl D.
06/17/2010 08:02 AM

Of course Mikey thinks it’s okay for Nascar to manipulate the end of races… if he could, he’d drive the Oscar Meyer weenermobile in the Daytona 500 to get himself more on-camera time. It’s not about credibility anymore, it’s all about marketing, and Mikey is nothing more than a pitchman. If my memory serves me correctly, MWR has won one race since it’s inception (a rain-shortened one at that). Waltrip sure has made a lot of commercials during that time, though.

06/17/2010 09:02 AM

9 days remain…

06/17/2010 09:36 AM

….What a dragging countdown

06/17/2010 09:57 AM

It’s hard to believe that some people have to wonder if Sandler and James were trying to make fun of NASCAR fans . OF COURSE THEY WERE . Pretty much everyone and every organisation make fun of NASCAR and it’s fans . Look at the goobers in the background of tv shots , on their cell phones waving wildly to their friends . Holding up signs provided by the NASCAR PR dept. Geez , what did you think Talladega Nights was all about . It was making fun of the overblown , over the line marketing orgy which is NASCAR , and the fans who get sucked right in .
I recall seeing James do the very same show at another NASCAR race . Maybe the PR dept. will be smart enough not to invite them back .

06/17/2010 10:10 AM

i’m confused about the ‘stang coming to cup. i though the cars had a certain length wheel-base as well. so the nose of the pony cars is the only portion of the car that’s coming to racing?

Carl D.
06/17/2010 10:46 AM


Not the complete nose, just a modified portion of the nose. That, and the word “Mustang” will be painted on the car somewhere.

I think the wheel-base on the Mustang is about 3 inches longer the wheel-base on a Focus. I don’t know what that means as far as Nascar rules and requirements (not that they are applied consistently or anything).

Don Mei
06/17/2010 10:49 AM

46 days to Brian Frances birthday!! Try to stifle your excitement.

Don Mei
06/17/2010 10:50 AM

M. Waltrip is Brian France’s butt-boy.

06/17/2010 10:55 AM



06/17/2010 11:43 AM

In addition to Hamlin’s wonderful post-race quote, I also loved the quote from his crew chief Mike Ford: “That’s what a 9-second lead will get you.” I think the fact that these drivers and teams sort of helplessly accept the situation speaks to the severity of the problem.

MI Mike
06/17/2010 12:09 PM

Who the hell is Sandler & James? I’m 60 yrs old & never heard of them. I was in the infield with headsets on and couldnt see these jokers but sure could hear them and they just about made me puke! How could anyone think this was cute?
Man oh man how low can ya go?

06/17/2010 01:40 PM

Folks, the Cup cars will still be same. The only thing that will change is the nose of the car changing to match the manufacturer. They are basically giving people what they want with brand recognition, while still keeping the crappy car to race with.

I knew Waltrip was a nascar shill but this is an all time low for him. He’s basically saying its ok to fix the races at the end to make them exciting. Fans are leaving the sport in droves and before too long the only fans they will have left are the casual ADHD crowd that needs to be entertained every second. The diehards are leaving because this sport…er show is becoming a joke.

06/17/2010 02:25 PM

NASCAR could put Michael in a pile of sheep manure up to his chin and he’d say “You have to applaud NASCAR for giving the fans what they want.”
Under his breath, “Now how can I mention Toyota or Aaron’s?”

06/17/2010 03:55 PM

Does Michael Waltrip even have any fans besides himself and his brother? And who cares what that NA$CAR suck up has to even say?

Brian France must be a homo. That would explain Waltrips love for him

06/17/2010 06:31 PM

The days of Nascar being a proving ground for the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mentality are long gone. So are the days of Petty, Pearson, Allison, Yarborough, et al. The days of seeing local car dealers or the local speed shop on the quarter panel of a stock car that looked likes a Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Pontiac, or gasp an AMC car (remember those?) you could buy off a showroom floor are gone too. Gone too are the days of North Wilkesboro and Riverside and a host of other tracks from the past. The days are over for race drivers like Bobby Issacs a specialist who only raced in a short schedule of races or Dave Marcus an independent who could really mixed it up with the factory and big bucks teams.

The start of the exodus for the way it was in the “old’ days began with when Winston came on board as a series sponsor and continues today with the advent (remember when Petty and the Wood brothers fielded a second car for only the biggest of the big races?) of multi-car teams where Nascar promised there would only be a handful of car owners and virtually killed whatever limited hope there was for the sport to continue its promise to be the people’s sport.

Face it. Nascar is E-N-T-E-R-T-A-I-N-M-E-N-T. The “racing” is just a way to bring the sponsors to the audience. It’s an <i>event</i>, the circus coming to town for a day and when it leaves, people say, “That was fun, what else on TV tonight?” And it’s forgotten almost immediately.

Like movies and television (how I make my living these days) Nascar has become diluted, a watered down product with a really good TV contract.

It’s no longer about racing or about the men willing to defy death because it’s their only way out an otherwise hopeless life with a destiny to be lived working in the mill or the local garage or the on the family farm.

I miss that past, but I acknowledge that the sport never really cared about me anyway. It was always (and still is) just a way for the France family to make <i>their</i> living.

Maybe, just maybe, all of us who call ourselves “fans” (or like me, once Cup team member for a couple of different drivers) would do well to remember that in the end, the “product” we see today is just another form of “entertainment.”

Let’s just enjoy Nascar for what it is and try to not take any of the public mockery or actions of the clowns (like James and Sandler) brought to the circus to be the warm-up act too personally, it’s just entertainment after all.

06/17/2010 08:13 PM

With the QOH coming back to the nothingwide series, this gives me one more reason to NOT watch that pathetic excuse for a racing series. As for mikey and his twin shilling brother, well, you get what you pay for if you still believe it’s sport and not entertainment. BIG ANNOUNEMENT OF UPCOMING EVENT. BIG TIME CAR RASSLIN”.

06/17/2010 08:13 PM

With the QOH coming back to the nothingwide series, this gives me one more reason to NOT watch that pathetic excuse for a racing series. As for mikey and his twin shilling brother, well, you get what you pay for if you still believe it’s sport and not entertainment. BIG ANNOUNEMENT OF UPCOMING EVENT. BIG TIME CAR RASSLIN”.

06/17/2010 08:57 PM

Has Mikey been sniffing that jet fuel again?

06/17/2010 10:50 PM

Mikey can say what he wants about the cautions and the GWCs that follow. His cars are never far enough up in the field to be collected in the ensuing melee. He might change his tune if they were.
Decals, decals, decals, I can’t wait for the new series of decals. Spec car heaven.

06/19/2010 08:18 AM

It’s just four words. Why is that so difficult for celebrities to wrap their litle botoxed brains around, especially (alleged) comics? Just say the words, lol.


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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