The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Chase Tweaks, Junior's CC, and Revisiting Mikey's Tweets by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday July 15, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Chase Tweaks, Junior's CC, and Revisiting Mikey's Tweets

NASCAR Fan Q&A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday July 15, 2010


I hope you’re enjoying the off-week before the off-weekend (which precedes the off-week after the off-weekend). Plenty of diverse topics this week, so let’s not waste time. As always, here’s the link to reach me. And I realized I don’t mention it enough, so let me take a moment to say thanks for the dialogue — this column wouldn’t exist without it, and my week would certainly be a little less entertaining without your thoughts.

Matt, once again, Bumbling Brian is more worried about ‘creating excitement’ that rehabilitating his audience. Unless I missed something, the crapshoot format hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in attendance or TV ratings. Wouldn’t it be more productive to find a way to get fans interested in the first 2/3 of the season, then the final 10 races would sort of take care of themselves? If he was really interested in what the fans think, he would be scrapping the stupid ‘playoff’ and go back to what worked for NASCAR for 50 years. More lip service to ‘the fans’ while he does what suits him.
— SallyB

A: I hear ya, Sal. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, read a lot of message boards and talked to a lot of colleagues — hell, even heard the drivers chime in — about these possible Chase tweaks, and to steal a line from “Hammer of the Gods,” it’s going over like a lead zeppelin. I think we need to keep in mind that France sends up these trial balloons (which, by the way, was the most-used expression in the NASCAR media this past week) each July at Daytona. This year’s ideas were just a bit (read: a lot) more radical than usual.

If NASCAR is basing its decision on feedback and public sentiment, I don’t see how it can make the asinine changes suggested. Anyway, I summed up my thoughts last week in this column, which you can read here.

Like most presidents, I think France is looking for a doctrine; his granddaddy founded NASCAR, his daddy made it a billion-dollar enterprise … my belief is that Brian’s preoccupation with the Chase is him searching for a legacy of some sort.

Hey, I’m all for swapping some tracks in and out of the 10-race lineup, but the more I hear of 15-man fields and eliminations, the more I cringe as “the sport” devolves into “the show.”

After the heartbreak rollercoaster of getting in the Chase one race (with a mid-pack running car) and bumped out with a car that drove EVEN WORSE, will Rick Hendrick drop Lance McGrew for a better crew chief anytime soon? Doug Richert comes to mind!!!
— Chuck Ellison

With Earnhardt struggling on the fringe of a Chase berth, is it time to axe crew chief Lance McGrew?

A: Well, Richert and the Earnhardt family have quite a history in that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won his first title in 1980 with Richert as his crew chief. As for Junior and McGrew, I really don’t see a change being made before the end of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the media types that pleads with their readers to “just give the Junior/McGrew combo time.” Sorry, time’s up. That said, in the absence of the steepest nosedive since Labonte left Gibbs, I don’t see Hendrick pulling the trigger on a change. Junior — at least publicly — is very supportive of McGrew, and vise versa.

Now, were I Mr. Hendrick, I’d tell Tony Eury, Sr. that, “Pops, I need your help bringing that No. 88 team into contention. Although I am only asking for it, I fully expect you to agree to terms by the end of business tomorrow and get to work.”

Pops may be PO’d about it for a while, but he’d come around.

The word “chemistry” is tossed around so often that we rarely stop and appreciate how imperative it is. Jimmie and Chad have it; it appears Kurt Busch and Steve Addington have it; Smoke and Zippy had it; Kenseth and … uh, nevermind. Point is, Junior and Pops had it — or at least Junior had someone he trusted, someone that served as a security blanket. When all else fails, start over and go back to what worked.

Any truth to the rumor of Las Vegas replacing Homestead as the final race of the season and then having the banquet that week? Make sense to me. More people will come out for three reasons: The race, the banquet and because IT’S VEGAS BABY!
— Madison in S.F.

A: I’ve heard the same rumors, but I don’t see it happening. For one thing, Vegas is an SMI-owned track and Homestead an ISC venue. You think the France’s are going to give Bruton Smith the season finale? I don’t.

Also, I believe Ford’s contract with Homestead extends through 2014 as the sponsor of “Ford Championship Week.” There’s some big bucks tied up in that deal (Ford reportedly ponied up $25 million for the first five years of that contract, which ran from 2005-09) and I can assure you, NASCAR will not do anything to jeopardize the next five.

Although some don’t agree with me (I’m talking to you, tweeps), I think the logical spot for a second Vegas date is in the Chase’s first weekend. Nothing against the fine folks of Loudon, N.H., but that’s not the ideal locale for NASCAR to kick off its all-important Chase. If the sanctioning body wants to get some pub, take the week after Richmond off and ship the show to Vegas where it can have a glitzy two-week buildup. Will it be overkill and shamelessly over-hyped? Hell yeah. Will the on-track product fall shy of said buildup? Probably. But like you said, “It’s Vegas, Baby!”

And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to see the champion crowned somewhere other than the Gateway to the Florida Keys. I know weather is a major factor, but a more traditional flavor (Charlotte, maybe? Atlanta again?) would suit me.

And last, my boy Eric wraps this column up with what our favorite agitator, Mr. Jeff Meyer, referred to as “from the I-couldn’t-have-said-it-better-myself” file:

Since Michael Waltrip is such a supporter for unnecessary late race cautions for the sake of an exciting race I believe NASCAR should have thrown one for him with about two to go.
— Eric Barnett, Kentucky

A: Ladies and gentleman, that is funny stuff. Eric and I used to sit on the wooden bleacher seats at Kentucky Motor Speedway outside of Owensboro, Ky., on Saturday nights, sneaking beers in the field outside of Turn 1 that served as a parking lot. Good times.

To see the old joint, check out the video clip of the week. This is where the Waltrips, Greens and one infamous Mr. Mayfield all got their starts. It ain’t fancy, but it’s home.

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07/15/2010 10:50 AM

Brian’s legacy will be the man who destroyed NASCAR. And he should get into the Hall of “Fame” in the Destroyer section. Third generation is at it again.
Maybe there could be a reason for a late race “debris” caution, as long as it didn’t help a certain car.

Chuck Ellison
07/15/2010 11:04 AM

It’s so cool to get published… But it would be even cooler if Hendrick would hire Doug Richert via my suggestion! Look what he did with less than stellar Greg Biffle!!!

07/15/2010 01:58 PM

LOL — yeah the Brainless France doctrine – “its all about the show”. Funny, I go to see a race or I used to before BZF took over.

Ugh, the only change that is needed to the chase is to acknowledge it was a failed experiment and go back to a full season championship.

07/15/2010 02:12 PM

AHHHHHH !!! That’s what I think about all these Chase changes, Chase references, Chase Chase Chase Chase!!! Let’s face it folks..there is NO MORE NASCAR ! There are no more drivers, teams, tracks or fans. ALL we have left is “THE CHASE” … it starts in January and ends in December…CHASE CHASE CHASE..If you’re a driver or a team or a sponsor..if you don’t make THE CHASE..then you may as well start and park. If you are a track and you don’t get a race in THE may as well hang out the for sale sign. If you are a writer and you don’t mention THE CHASE at least three times daily in your may as well get a job flipping burgers. If you are a fan and your driver doesn’t make THE may as well not come out of your house until the following season starts. OH WAIT..there is no beginning or end to the season.. it’s THE CHASE !! RACING?? What is that? It doesn’t even matter what twisted contrived manipulated new rules they derive for THE CHASE each year (yes..that would be each year..not each season..there are no seasons..just THE CHASE on and on and on and on) rules don’t matter…we just need THE CHASE! Starting times. double wide, have at it boys, yellow lines, bonus points….nothing matters…as long as we have THE CHASE ! Well I just want to make one thing very clear, as the commercical says…it may be “My, Your, Our NASCAR” but it sure as heck isn’t “My, Your, Our CHASE” !!!!

07/15/2010 05:59 PM

You must not have seen the practice where the Speed/Fox announcers said that JJ & JG had the 2 new generation car. Jr. did not get one. I felt badly for Jr. when the Speed Report showed his post-race interview he said that he was just “confused”. I’ll bet he is! He is the one bringing in the greatest amount of money and all he runs are the r&d cars for the 24 & 48 with a cc whose job was washing the haulers during the week before he was made Jr.‘s cc. I am confused too. I have finally come to believe that Rick does not want Jr. in the top 12. I think he was bitterly disappointed at Daytona when Jr. won with and RCR car Friday night and then Sat. night, (think of those cartoons where the evil villain says “Curses”), even with the piece of junk he had to drive, he managed to finish 4th and get in the top 12. :) RH was going to make sure that that did not happen 2 weeks in a row. I was reading in the comments section of some blog a few weeks back that there is a story here, but the regular Nascar journalists/writers don’t dare touch it. Maybe we could get the National Enquirer to do another story on Jr., a good one, by looking into just what is going on here. Something is rotten. Maybe that guy who uncovered the John Edwards mess.
I can only hope & pray that Rick lets Jr. go and puts Kasey in the 88 car. The sooner the better. If Rick wanted Jr. winning, he would be winning.

07/15/2010 06:30 PM

I guess you’ve never been to Vegas in September.

07/16/2010 01:06 PM

Yeah that makes perfect sense. The cash cow and most popular driver in Nascar is being held up by his team owner for no apparent reason at all. He would only rake in more money if he let him win. Jr. is just not a great driver…sorry to bust your bubble

Kevin in SoCal
07/16/2010 03:50 PM

Yeah, I remember Dale’s fans saying Teresa was the reason Dale wasnt winning races, too. Its never Dale’s fault.


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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