The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Menard's Meltdown, McNabb's Misconception, and Martin Gone Missing by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday November 21, 2013

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I can’t believe the NASCAR season is completely over, and honestly it feels a little stale. Though I have written and spoken some very nice words about our champion this year, I can’t help but feel like I’ve just gone to the movie theater and spent money on something I’ve already seen. The guy gets the girl and Jimmie Johnson wins the championship.

That’s no fun.

The thing is, I’m going to watch races again next year, and so will you. Because I know that just because the end result has been the same, every race of every season is different. Heck, just because we’ve had the same champion six out of the last eight years doesn’t mean that every single championship has been the same. Each one was different than the last and each season had some amazingly fun moments in them.

This off-season will more than likely fly by, and this time next year we’ll be talking about another range of storylines, both negative and positive. Surprisingly enough, though, it seems like each year goes faster and faster, and it’s getting more and more difficult to keep track of important events based on its corresponding race date. …Wait, I’m not the only one who does that, right?

So, as we speed towards the green flag of another season, I’m still looking forward to it. For now, some hot chocolate with little marshmallows over the winter and some family time over the holidays sounds like a great thing.

Now onto your questions:

Donovan McNabb raised the ire of the NASCAR world when he stated that Jimmie Johnson was not an athlete. Apparently the guy in the firesuit is less of an athlete than a guy who competes wearing slacks and a visor…and walks.

“I really hated Donovan McNabb’s comments, but I don’t know how to defend them. I know Jimmie Johnson works out and everything, but that doesn’t mean he’s an athlete behind the wheel. Isn’t McNabb partially right?” Nancy

Well… No. He’s not right. I don’t think that racecar drivers are the same caliber of athletes as football players, basketball players, and the like. But that doesn’t mean that being a NASCAR driver doesn’t take a physical toll on your body. You’ll realize that drivers like Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch are the exception to the “workout” rule”. In other words, most drivers have a workout/training regimen and are avid athletes both on and off the track. Though both of those guys are pretty good drivers, the difference between Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson when they get out of the car are usually easily measured.

I’m not a scientist, but it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to realize where the athlete part comes in. First of all, the issue of endurance comes into play. Drivers have to undergo generally sweltering conditions inside the car, though in fairness there are cooling devices in the helmets. They have to sustain G-forces on par with astronauts and they have to do so for four or five hours at a time. They have to pay attention to their proximity to the wall, other drivers, maintain pit stops, and keep track of a variety of things while on the track … and still find a way to win the race. No timeouts, no scheduled breaks. They just go until they have to stop.

Now, could Johnson get out of the car and go play football? No, but neither could McNabb get in the car and go do what Johnson has been able to do. That’s where I get defensive. Drivers don’t have to be in tip top shape in order to be successful, so they are different in that area and that’s where people get their argument. But the misconception of this sport is that it’s like driving a car in everyday life. Which, any driver will tell you, is not.

In other words, it’s going to be difficult to convince any ignoramus off the street who is just fully convinced that NASCAR is stupid. The science is there and I’d encourage you to do more research if it’s really that important to you. But between G-forces, the length of the races, and the various mental tolls that a driver has to go through, there is certainly a strong argument for those who are willing to listen.

“What the heck happened on the No. 27 car at Homestead??? That was some crazy sh*t!” Ryan

For those who haven’t seen or heard about the No. 27 car’s explosion on pit road and homestead, you can view the video here.

Well…. they don’t know. They were asked this same thing during the Camping World Truck/Nationwide Series championship banquet, and they said they hadn’t found out just yet. Team owner Richard Childress did say with the fire that was going on underneath the car that the heat that built up was similar to holding a blowtorch to the wheel. So maybe enough heat built up somehow that caused the wheel to blow up?

I’m sure Childress will talk about it once they know exactly what happened, but every single person is saying that they have never seen anything like this before. Thankfully no one got hurt, but I’m curious to know how it blew the rotors and wheel off without blowing out the actual tire. That will be one of those “remember that race when..” moments that will make it on the highlight reels for a long time to come.

“So is Mark Martin going to be on the track next year or not?” Judy

I wouldn’t bet my house on him staying out of the car for the rest of his life, no, but I think he’s now finally going into a “mostly retired” state. That’s as opposed to “semi-retirement” that he’s been in since 2005.

Coming soon to a milk carton or protein shake bottle near you. Mark Martin’s absence in the Cup garage will be noticeable in 2014, as he moves into an advisory and testing role within Stewart-Haas Racing.

He will have some sort of role at Stewart Haas Racing there next year after having driven the No. 14 car for the injured Tony Stewart in 12 of the final 13 races of the season. Greg Zipadelli, the competition director for SHR, said it was an as-of-yet “undefined role” which might as well be “Associate in name only.” He’ll be a standby driver when needed, driver coach when not, and on his couch whenever he wants to be. He will also handle the pre-season testing duties as Stewart recovers from him broken leg.

I’m sure Martin will be in a car every once in a while, but it won’t be on the semi-regular basis that he has been in the past several years.

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