The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Restarts, Underdogs, And Flubs by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday July 4, 2013

Go to site navigation Go to article

NASCAR Mailbox: Restarts, Underdogs, And Flubs

Summer Bedgood · Thursday July 4, 2013


When everyone stops talking about Denny Hamlin, restarts, or Brad Keselowski’s Chase chances, eventually they will realize that we are already returning to Daytona for the second time since the season opener in February.

And, if you’ll remember, it was a busy weekend.

Between Danica Patrick’s historic qualifying run, the horrible crash in the Nationwide Series race, and Jimmie Johnson’s second career Daytona 500 win, storylines certainly were not left lacking after the race. Now that we’re headed back there this year, many of those questions are still on our minds. Can Patrick resume her restrictor plate success? Have Daytona and NASCAR addressed any safety issues since February? Can Johnson get over this whole restart thing and follow up his Daytona 500 win?

Oops … I brought up that whole restarts thing again. I guess we’ve now gone full circle.

Get it? Circle? Like .. the cars? …No?

Well, ok then.

Now on to your questions:

“I know Jimmie Johnson made complaints about the way that Matt Kenseth
restarted. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the leader dictates how the race starts. Hasn’t Jimmie done similar things when he was leading?
I thought I heard all of the announcers say that Matt did nothing wrong and wanted to know what you thought. I personally thought Kenseth did nothing wrong on that restart and it was Jimmie that
messed up.” Lin and Major

Matt Kenseth rode a late-race restart all the way to Kentucky’s Victory Lane last week.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Kenseth did nothing wrong on that restart. In fact, after the race, Kenseth seemed genuinely surprised that Johnson felt like there was a problem at all. In Kenseth’s mind, the restart was perfectly legal and I agree with him.

In terms of Johnson pulling similar stunts at other racetracks, I’m sure he has. Though I don’t recall any specific examples, I’m sure there are many cases of Johnson snookering another driver on a restart, taking off, and winning the race because of it. I’m sure, in some cases, it would be much more noticeable than whatever it was Kenseth did. It doesn’t mean that Johnson has done anything wrong, but the reason I can’t pull up any clear-cut examples is because whoever it was just didn’t complain about it as much as Johnson has. That’s barely newsworthy, even on a slow news week.

Johnson needs to get over this whole restart thing and focus on his own racing. Honestly, I’m sick of talking and hearing about it, and it’s totally unnecessary. Like I said in my column earlier this week, when Johnson is the only one with a real problem, then it is Johnson who is the problem. If this had been Dave Blaney or J.J. Yeley who made these statements, it wouldn’t be this big of a deal and NASCAR would tell them to get over it. Johnson needs to do just that.

“I really enjoyed watching Front Row Motorsports finish one-two in the race at Talladega earlier this year. Is there any less likelihood of that happening at Daytona?” Tyler

I don’t see why there would be. I thoroughly enjoy restrictor plate racing for a variety of reasons, and its ability to produce an unusual or new winner is one of those. Watching David Gilliland push David Ragan across the start/finish line for a David beats Goliath kind of story was absolutely fascinating, and I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t happy for either of them (other than Brad Keselowski’s Twitter rant of course).

The thing about Ragan is that he’s actually a pretty good restrictor plate driver. His first career Sprint Cup Series win (and only one up until this season) was at Daytona International Speedway and both Talladega and Daytona are tracks where Ragan has an average finish of 20th or better, one of only a handful of tracks where he can say that.

So, in a way, Ragan might just be one of the dark horse runners this week because his restrictor plate prowess is apparent no matter what team he drives for.

Of course, there are also a number of other possibilities in terms of dark horses to win this weekend. Any driver could win just as easily as Johnson, Tony Stewart, or Jeff Gordon. It’s a great reason to tune in on Saturday night.

“Why is it that drivers have such a hard time carrying momentum from year to year? Brad Keselowski has sucked this season, and Carl Edwards just about fell off the face of the map the year after he tied with Tony Stewart. The trend goes back years. Why does this happen?” Kim

There really isn’t one distinct advantage, but let me just offer a few educated guesses here. First of all, this sport is hard. Really hard. It’s hard enough to maintain success from week to week, let alone year to year. When tenths of a second matter, the tiniest changes to a team can result in dramatic results on the racetrack, both positive and negative.

Secondly, teams work intensively on their product over the offseason, and make large gains. That leaves room for the other teams to fall behind, if ever so slightly.

Finally, it’s really, really hard to make up a points deficit and much easier to lose an advantage. Even if a team starts the year off poorly and picks it up as the year goes on, it’s usually much too late to make enough of a difference. For Keselowski, the team has certainly underperformed simply on the basis of being the defending champions, but their “terrible” season would be great for a myriad of other teams. Much of what has happened to them has not been of their own doing, and it was much easier for Keselowski to fall out of the top 10 in points than it will be for him to work his way back in there.

Simply put … the sport is competitive and it’s easy to fall behind. The fact that Johnson and his team were able to maintain their success for five years is simply amazing, and they will be remembered in the sport’s history because of it.

Keselowski will be fine, but it certainly is an interesting dynamic how hard it is for teams to keep up their game.

Now, my question to all of you: Which current driver do you think is most likely to go on a championship winning streak like Johnson?

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
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
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Summer Bedgood and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

07/04/2013 06:05 PM

Summer, if you meant 5 titles in a row—none.

07/04/2013 10:10 PM

All you need to do is become Brian’s Golden Boy.